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Response, Rescue in Vershire

Police: Man Sets Fire to Home, Shoots Himself

  • Kristin Barry, right, looks at her burned Vershire home while walking through her yard with a neighbor yesterday morning. Officials said the fire was intentionally set by Barry's ex-husband, who had been staying at the home temporarily.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Kristin Barry, right, looks at her burned Vershire home while walking through her yard with a neighbor yesterday morning. Officials said the fire was intentionally set by Barry's ex-husband, who had been staying at the home temporarily.
    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Investigator Stanley Baranowski, left, and West Fairlee Assistant Chief Cory Austin, look over the fire scene.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Investigator Stanley Baranowski, left, and West Fairlee Assistant Chief Cory Austin, look over the fire scene.
    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Authorities said that a man set fire to this Vershire home yesterday before shooting himself. He was found conscious at the scene when responders arrived and airlifted him to DHMC.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Authorities said that a man set fire to this Vershire home yesterday before shooting himself. He was found conscious at the scene when responders arrived and airlifted him to DHMC.
    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Fire Chief Steve Ward, left, and Capt. Chris Calhoun of the Vershire Fire Department continue to work at a structure fire in Vershire.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Fire Chief Steve Ward, left, and Capt. Chris Calhoun of the Vershire Fire Department continue to work at a structure fire in Vershire.
    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kristin Barry, right, looks at her burned Vershire home while walking through her yard with a neighbor yesterday morning. Officials said the fire was intentionally set by Barry's ex-husband, who had been staying at the home temporarily.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Investigator Stanley Baranowski, left, and West Fairlee Assistant Chief Cory Austin, look over the fire scene.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Authorities said that a man set fire to this Vershire home yesterday before shooting himself. He was found conscious at the scene when responders arrived and airlifted him to DHMC.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Fire Chief Steve Ward, left, and Capt. Chris Calhoun of the Vershire Fire Department continue to work at a structure fire in Vershire.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

A man set fire to the residence in which he was temporarily residing before shooting himself in the head yesterday morning, police said.

Officials, alerted by an early-morning passerby to a home on fire, found a conscious Collin Barry, 53, laying outside the house he had been sharing with his ex-wife for the past two weeks. According to Vermont State Police and Vershire Fire Chief Steve Ward, Barry was alert and speaking to EMT workers when they arrived at the scene.

Barry was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center by helicopter, and later transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital for burn treatment, police said.

A DHMC spokeswoman said she was not allowed to comment on Barry’s condition. Ryan Donovan, a spokesman for Massachusetts General, said there was no public record of Barry’s admission at the hospital, and therefore couldn’t comment on his condition. Lack of a public record means either he is not at the hospital or he voluntarily opted out of the listing directory, Donovan said.

Early yesterday morning, a driver on Vershire Center Road saw flames rising from the single-family house, according to state police detective Sgt. Jake Zorn. The driver, who requested that police not release his name, administered “basic first aid” to Barry and went to the home of Mike Furno, who lives next door, to call 911.

“There were flames higher than the trees,” Furno said, recalling his first glimpse of the blaze, in an interview at the scene, where he was helping to direct traffic. “It was really going.”

According to police, Barry ignited the fire and then shot himself in the head in a bedroom. He went outside and collapsed, where he was found by the driver.

It took about two and a half hours to contain the fire, Ward said, with firefighters having to approach the building with care due to a pair of propane tanks at the back of the house.

“He wanted it to burn,” said Joe Denneen, head of the Vershire ambulance squad , standing on the dirt road and looking over a small fence at the house’s remains.

Barry had been living at the house for about two weeks, according to his ex-wife, Kristin Barry.

The two divorced last year, and Collin Barry had been staying elsewhere since then. But he moved back into the one-story, green-paneled house at the corner of Vershire Center Road and Reed Road while he actively looked for a new place to live, Kristin Barry said.

It wasn’t the first time authorities responded to an emergency involving Collin Barry.

On May 9, 2009, Collin Barry was arrested at the same residence for domestic assault after he hit his wife several times, according to police.

He then threatened to kill himself with a handgun. The Valley News was unable to learn how that case was adjudicated by deadline.

Kristin Barry said she left at about 5:30 a.m. yesterday to go to work at King Arthur Flour in Norwich. The first dispatch came at 6:51 a.m. for a structure fire at 996 Vershire Center Rd., Denneen said. While en route, another call came in regarding a gunshot wound to the head at the same address.

Besides the Vershire Volunteer Fire Department and Vermont State Police, the fire departments of West Fairlee, Thetford, Stratford and Bradford assisted. The Vershire Town Highway Department provided heavy equipment for “suppression and investigation efforts,” police said.

The fire destroyed about half of the house, collapsing much of the roof.

After extinguishing the blaze, fire department officials spent time combing through the rubble, carrying away ruined mattress springs and raking ashes before venturing back into the part of the home that still stood.

Officials left the scene at about 12:30 p.m. Ward said the residence is a total loss.

“We had to tear it completely apart for the fire marshall,” he said. “The thing’s completely destroyed now.”

Police estimate the damages at about $100,000.

The incident is still under investigation, and criminal charges are pending a “review of the Orange County States Attorney,” said police in a statement.

Several neighbors on the rural stretch of road where Barry set the fire declined to comment yesterday, but Furno said that he had never had any issues with Barry when he was at the house.

“Good man,” Furno said of his neighbor, who had lived there seven years. “Always working around his house. Doing his thing.”

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248. Valley News photographer Jennifer Hauck contributed to this report.