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Family with infant escapes as fire destroys West Fairlee farmhouse

  • An overnight fire destroyed a home on Blood Brook Road in West Fairlee, Vt., on Feb. 9, 2021. The family has been displaced and their pets died in the blaze, which received response from fire departments from West Fairlee and nine nearby towns. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/9/2021 3:25:10 PM
Modified: 2/9/2021 9:39:19 PM

WEST FAIRLEE — A fire tore through a recently renovated farmhouse on Blood Brook Road late Monday night, forcing a couple and their infant to escape into the bitter cold.

No person was injured in the blaze at 3207 Blood Brook Road, but one dog and one cat were killed in the fire, according to West Fairlee Fire Chief Cory Austin.

“We have a lot of support and we got out OK,” Jennifer Avery, who lives in the house with husband, Colin Stemper, and their 10-month-old daughter, said in an interview Tuesday.

They’re staying with family for now. She said the couple are thinking about rebuilding, but it’s too early to make any plans.

“We really love that area and that spot. It’s our home,” she said.

Austin said the couple and their baby were asleep when the flames broke out, but that they were able to get out of the house before calling the fire department around 10:15 p.m.

The blaze was large enough to be visible when crews turned onto Blood Brook Road.

“We did not have to be up there to see the house on fire,” Austin said.

Fire crews from West Fairlee, Fairlee, Orford, Vershire, Thetford, Bradford, North Haverhill, Strafford, Norwich and Lyme responded to the fire, working for nearly five hours to get the blaze under control around 3 a.m. Crews stayed on the scene, putting out hot spots until 5:30 a.m., and returned hours later with an excavator to reach remaining spots that were smoking, Austin said.

The task of putting out the fire was made more difficult as temperatures dropped to around 5 degrees late Monday night and early Tuesday morning, causing fire trucks to “freeze up.”

The house was destroyed in the fire, and the roof collapsed in, making it difficult to officially determine a cause, Austin said. However, he believes the fire started in the basement and could have resulted from a problem with the wood stove.

West Fairlee property records indicate that the building was a two-story farmhouse, built in 1890, with five bedrooms and a detached barn. Avery and Stemper purchased the home for $320,000 in 2018, according to the property records.

Austin said the family had recently remodeled parts of the home and that they also owned farm animals on the property. The farm animals were far away from the fire and were not injured, he said.

“The community really lost the house,” Avery said Tuesday, calling the building a “beautiful 19th century farmhouse.” She said it is often referred to as the “Godfrey house” because the Godfrey family lived there for nearly 100 years, until the late 1980s.

Following news about the fire, Avery said community members have come out in droves with supplies, food and general support.

“We want to thank everyone,” she added.

Avery, along with her two siblings, co-owns the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, which they inherited from their father, Allen Avery, who died in 2008.

Anna Merriman can be reached at or 603-727-3216.

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