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Chief: Stove Ashes Caused Norwich Fire

Norwich — The fire that destroyed a home on New Boston Road Wednesday night was caused by hot ashes from a wood stove that were placed in a shed, officials said.

In a news release, Fire Chief Stephen Leinoff said the fire quickly extended into the garage and up the exterior walls of the home. In an interview, Leinoff said the home, owned by Judy Pond, was a “total loss.”

“There’s not much salvageable,” he said.

Pond was not present during the fire, which was reported shortly before 9 p.m. Nobody was injured, however, Leinoff said Pond’s two pets appear to have perished. A neighbor, Steve Wilson, said on Wednesday night that the pets were an older dog named Dilly and a cat named Shadow.

A volunteer firefighter for Norwich lives nearby and was the first to arrive, Leinoff said.

“When he came down, he opened the doors, but nothing came out,” he said.

Leinoff said Pond is staying with friends in the area. She could not be reached on Thursday.

Frigid temperatures and a steep, icy driveway made for difficult fire-fighting conditions Wednesday night, Leinoff said.

“We didn’t put the engine exactly where we wanted it to end up, but we had no choice because (the wheels were) spinning, and when we set the brake it actually started sliding backwards, so it was less than desirable, but it got there,” he said.

A power line also fell down directly in front of the house soon after firefighters arrived, complicating efforts.

The fire was considered under control before 10 p.m., less than an hour after the 911 call came in, but firefighters continued battling flames late into the night.

A standing seam roof, which stayed in place even as the supports burned out from beneath it, trapped heat, Leinoff said.

“It was extensive,” he said. “Even though it was under control, it took a long time to get to all of the hot spots because there was so much damage throughout the building.”

The structure, built in 1971, was assessed at nearly $80,000, according to the town database. The total value of the property, including “extra features” and 17 acres of land, was listed at $219,300.

Meanwhile, the driver that struck a Hartford fire engine during the response was treated and released from the hospital, said Norwich Police Chief Doug Robinson.

Robinson said he is not sure whether the driver will be cited.

Hartford Fire Capt. Raymond Bushey said the engine, a pumper tanker that brings water to the scene, was turning into the Norwich town garage, a fill site, to get more water when it was struck from behind.

Bushey said there was minor damage to the truck’s “rear step,” which firefighters use to access the fire hose and other equipment. The department is in the process of getting quotes for repair parts and the truck is “still providing service to the community,” Bushey said.

However, at the time the truck was struck, it was taken out of service and additional departments, including Lebanon and Strafford, were called, Leinoff said.

Norwich, Hanover, Thetford, Hartford, Lyme and Hartland also responded.

The Norwich Support Team, a group of volunteers, provided firefighters with warm food and beverages at the scene, which were “greatly appreciated on an extraordinarily cold” night, Leinoff said.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.