Firefighters Save Lyme Home in Fire that Destroys Attached Barn

  • Hanover firefighter Bob Mousley takes a rest as they finish putting out a barn fire in Lyme, N.H., on Friday, July 13, 2018. No injuries were reported with the fire and the cause is under investigation. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Elaine Neal, left, of Lyme, N.H., watches firefighters work to finish putting out the blaze that engulfed her barn on Friday morning, July 13, 2018, in Lyme, N.H. No injuries were reported in the fire and Neal's two dogs and three donkeys were pulled from the area unharmed. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A burned page from Elaine Neal's book collection rests on charred grass in Lyme, N.H., on Friday, July 13, 2018. The collection was housed in Neal's barn that went up in flames. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, July 13, 2018

Lyme — Firefighters battling a multi-alarm blaze at an attached barn just off East Thetford Road on Friday morning stopped the fire at the breezeway, preventing major damage to the adjoining 1889 farmhouse.

But saving the home possibly came at a cost: The fire destroyed the 20-year-old barn at 7 Hamilton Lane, a property owned by Elaine Neal, a Hanover dentist, and her husband, Frank.

“People struggle when we aren’t putting the actual fire out,” Hanover Deputy Fire Chief Michael Hinsley said, “but it was a tactical move.”

In good spirits despite the situation unfolding before her eyes, Elaine Neal said on Friday she was appreciative of how the community had rallied around her, as well as for firefighters’ efforts to save the home where she and her husband had just marked their 30th year of residency.

“They saved my house, which is amazing considering the devastation,” she said at the scene. “I am so grateful.”

No one was home when the fire broke out toward the center of the large barn around 10:30 a.m.; Neal learned of the situation when she got a call from a friend that her barn was on fire.

The first arriving crews and a bystander immediately brought the Neals’ two dogs to safety, and a local veterinarian arrived and took them in for precautionary care. Several neighbors also stopped by to see how they could help.

In addition, those who first arrived rescued three miniature donkeys out of the burning barn, sparing them major injury.

“This community is unbelievable,” she said.

Hinsley said that when firefighters arrived on scene, they quickly decided to focus on saving the home by trying to stop the fire at the breezeway.

Flames were shooting out of the barn at the time, and the fire was spreading rapidly, he said.

Firefighters sprayed the peak of the barn, and were able to suppress the spread of the flames. The back side of the house did suffer some heat and fire damage, and the home most likely won’t be immediately habitable, Hinsley said.

At least one firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

The property is assessed at $539,400, according to town records, and is insured.

The fire caused short detours on both sides of the Connecticut River on Friday.

Just after noon, when the majority of the flames were knocked down, a faint outline of the red barn still stood, most of its charred contents in a mound in the middle of where the structure once was.

Firetrucks lined the narrow, windy driveway, and nearly a dozen hose lines made a tangle in the yard. A well-tended garden just behind the barn sat partially scorched. The donkeys appeared unfazed as they grazed in a pasture.

Elaine Neal, of Hanover’s Neal Wallace Dental, remained positive as firefighters doused the charred structure. She was just thankful that everyone was OK. At the end of the day, “It’s just a barn,” she said.

But her husband, who didn’t immediately learn of the fire, would certainly be less able to maintain his equanimity, she said.

He kept a rare book collection in the top of the barn.

“You don’t think things like this are going to happen to you,” she said. “It’s going to break his heart.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.