Fire Sparked by Welding Equipment Destroys Strafford Garage

  • Earl Silloway, of Strafford, Vt., walks past the burned remains of his garage on April 3, 2018. A spark from a welding torch is believed to have started the fire, which broke out around noontime. No one was injured. Six chickens perished. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2018 4:21:18 PM
Modified: 4/4/2018 12:17:04 AM

Strafford — Earl Silloway stepped away from his welding project today for only a moment — but that’s all it took for his garage to go up in flames.

The 26-by-26-foot structure, which he used as a shop, was a total loss in a noontime fire and explosion that shut down a portion of the Justin Morrill Memorial Highway. 

Six chickens that were housed in an attached coop perished; four hens and a rooster made it out alive.

“It was so hot you couldn’t get near it,” Silloway said in an interview at the scene. 

No one was injured. Silloway’s house and a large barn that sit nearby were untouched. 

Strafford Fire Chief Shawn Harlow said a spark from a torch is believed to have caused the fire. Several people reported hearing a loud explosion, which is believed to be the sound of a fuel tank inside the garage bursting, Harlow said.

There wasn’t much firefighters could do when they arrived on scene shortly after the call came in at 12:07 p.m. The garage was fully involved by then, Harlow said.

Silloway — who was in good spirits despite just losing a lifetime worth of tools and other equipment — was grateful for today’s unusual wind direction, which he believes helped to save his house. Typically, he said, the wind blows toward his home, but it blew in the opposite direction today. 

Several cords of wood that neighbored the garage only suffered minimal damage.

Silloway was in the garage today welding a seat for a two-wheeled horse cart, he said.

He recalled stepping out to attend to a lumber delivery, and then he went inside to use the telephone. Before he knew it, his stepson had driven down the road and pointed out the fire.

There was nothing left of the garage this afternoon. Metal roofing was twisted around the footprint and charred debris was scattered throughout.

Silloway, who was born on the property in 1941 and moved back in 1990, has insurance. He resides there with his wife, Rose.

The fire reached a first alarm, drawing crews from Strafford, Thetford, West Fairlee, Norwich and Bradford, Vt., to the scene.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at or 603-727-3248

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