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‘Going to Lose Everything’

Intense Fire Destroys Perkinsville Grandmother’s Home

  • Volunteer firefighters from Ascutney and Weathersfield rip off siding during a house fire in Perkinsville yesterday afternoon. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Volunteer firefighters from Ascutney and Weathersfield rip off siding during a house fire in Perkinsville yesterday afternoon. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sheila Gray, left, comforts her sister, Jennifer Congdon, whose home and granddaughter’s pets were lost in the blaze. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Sheila Gray, left, comforts her sister, Jennifer Congdon, whose home and granddaughter’s pets were lost in the blaze. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smoke pours from a fire in Jennifer Congdon’s home in Perkinsville. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Smoke pours from a fire in Jennifer Congdon’s home in Perkinsville. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Volunteer firefighters from Ascutney and Weathersfield rip off siding during a house fire in Perkinsville yesterday afternoon. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Sheila Gray, left, comforts her sister, Jennifer Congdon, whose home and granddaughter’s pets were lost in the blaze. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Smoke pours from a fire in Jennifer Congdon’s home in Perkinsville. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Perkinsville — A one-story home on Quarry Road was completely destroyed and several pets believed lost yesterday afternoon in a fire that took firefighting crews from 11 towns battling for nearly five hours and into the evening before it was fully extinguished.

Jennifer Congdon was on her way home from work and picking up her granddaughter at Weathersfield School when her father reported the news that her house on the dead-end street was ablaze.

“Don’t rush. There’s nothing you can do,” Congdon said her father told her.

Indeed, it was already too late by the time firefighters arrived on the scene after receiving a call at about 1:45 p.m. The home was already “fully involved,” according to officials, and so intense that by 4 p.m. crews were still fighting the fire from the outside and unable to enter the structure.

Residents of this village in Weathersfield said they could see a plume floating into the sky from miles away. Neighbors stood in yesterday afternoon’s rain as they watched the firefighters spray water from a hose through a window and into the house.

Tim Gray, Congdon’s nephew and next-door neighbor, said when he noticed the fire at his aunt’s house he grabbed a fire extinguisher from his own home and attempted to attack the front door, but to no avail.

“That’s all I could do,” Gray said. “It was already going up pretty good.”

At the same time, Kelley Gove was driving up the street to visit a friend when she saw Gray running with the fire extinguisher. She spotted the flames and immediately called 911.

“Ah, it’s really black now,” Gove said as she watched the fire. “She’s going to lose everything.”

West Weathersfield Fire Chief Josh Dauphin said the cause of the fire was undetermined, but it likely started in the kitchen. As of 4 p.m., he estimated that crews would be working on the house for another two and a half hours.

Quarry Road was blocked for several hours by fire trucks lining the street. Crews had been called in Weathersfield, Reading, Ascutney, Chester, Windsor, Rockingham, Cavindish, Proctorsville, Claremont, South Woodstock and Springfield, Vt.

No one was home at the time of the fire, but Congdon assumed that a cat named Panthro, dog named Rambo and a hampster named Taxi were lost.

Although Congdon lived in the one story home by herself, her three grandchildren often stayed with her — the three pets belonged to her 6-year-old granddaughter. The backyard of the house was filled with evidence of children. A tan plastic playhouse with red shutters and a green roof sat next to an untouched pile of firewood. And in the front yard, a light blue swing hung from a tree branch.

Yesterday, as Congdon was driving her granddaughter home from school, she explained that her pets likely perished in the fire.

As they continued to drive, her granddaughter asked, “Grandma, do you think my trampoline is OK?” Congdon reassured the 6-year-old that her toy was alright.

After dropping her granddaughter off at a relative’s house, Congdon headed to her own home, where firefighters were still attacking the fire. As she began to walk up the gravel driveway, her sister and neighbor, Sheila Gray, ran up and hugged her.

Congdon then sat her cup of coffee on the wet grass and hugged her nephew Tim Gray. Congdon and her nephew walked to the back of the house and looked through the white and brown trimmed windows. The glass was gone and the inside of the house was singed black.

As Congdon peered inside, a firefighter took a chainsaw to the brown paneling of the house and tried to cut an opening into the side of the home. The red tin roof had already collapsed.

Congdon said she had plans to stay with her parents.

“My people are safe. That’s the most important,” Congdon said.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.