Chief: Heat lamps caused Lyndeborough barn fire
Thursday, January 17, 2013
LYNDEBOROUGH – A neighbor saved the life of John Stephenson during a fast moving fire that destroyed his barn and damaged his Center Road house Monday morning.
Two cats were saved, but the fire killed four cats and 80 chickens.
Michele Boette was driving back from Market Basket when she saw the flames and ran into the house and persuaded Stephenson, who was reluctant to leave because of the cats, to vacate the house.
“She grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the house. She really went above and beyond,” said Fire Chief Rick McQuade, who said Boette and Stephenson were both in jeopardy at that point, because fire was consuming the barn, which was attached to the house by an ell.
Both the ell and barn were destroyed and the house suffered smoke and heat damage.
The chief said he and the state fire marshal determined that a heat lamp in the barn used to keep chickens warm caused the fire.
Temperatures that climbed close the 60 degrees that day were probably a factor, said the chief.
One firefighter suffered mild heat exhaustion, he said.
“People love their animals,” said the chief, “but heating lamps can be very dangerous.”
The fire brought firefighters from nine towns to the property, located near the intersection of Center and Old Mountain roads, Dense gray smoke could be seen from miles away.
When his mother, Shirley Stephenson, lived there she would keep a note on the door in case of fire to let emergency personnel know how many cats and dogs there were.
Two of the Stephenson cats were rescued by firefighters who brought them from the second floor of the house to a gurney where they were given oxygen and water before they were transported to a veterinary office.
The fire call came in shortly after 11 a.m. and Lyndeborough crews arrived first at the scene and were followed a few minutes later by Wilton, so they were able to “make an aggressive attack on the ell,” McQuade said.
The fire was under control at about 2:30 p.m., but Lyndeborough firefighters went back at 11 p.m. that night to cool down a hot spot.
Some fire trucks from other towns didn’t leave Lyndeborough until after 5 p.m.
Lyndeborough Center has been the site of several large fires over recent years, including one that destroyed the Moynihan house and killed the family dog on nearby Crooked S Road in 2006. A barn fire at the Schmechel farm in 2007 killed pigs, sheep, a horse, and chickens. The fire chief said he remembers another one years ago, across from the old town barn on Center Road.
Barns that are 80 or 90 years old are dried out, he said, and they are often used to store hay or other flammable material.
The American Red Cross found Stephenson temporary housing.