3-alarm blaze in Amherst destroys house, displaces 78-year-old resident

AMHERST – Herb Kopf lost his wife of 47 years in February two years ago.

On Friday, Dec. 13, he stood in the freezing cold watching fire crews fight a three-alarm blaze in the house where they had lived for most of those years.

The fire, which Kopf said might have started in the wood stove, heavily damaged the Cape Cod house on 3 Brookwood Drive, Amherst.

Kopf was surprisingly upbeat, though.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do with the house or where I was going to live, and then this happens,” he said.

Kopf, 78, said he will likely stay with his son in Needham, Mass., now that fire has claimed his house.

Friends also put the word out about the fire, and Kopf’s fellow members of the Amherst Lions Club “all showed up” to support him, he said.

No one was home when the fire started sometime before 11:48 a.m. That’s when a next-door neighbor, Heather Bartis, called 911 after she saw smoke and flames shooting from the house.

“I ran over and started pounding on the door to see if there was anybody in there,” Bartis said. “Then I called 911.”

Firefighters and emergency crews from Amherst, Milford, Hollis and Mont Vernon responded. Firefighters from Hollis set up a temporary water tank at the intersection of Brookwood Drive and New Boston Road.

By 1 p.m., the fire was under control and crews were salvaging what they could of the home’s contents while making sure the fire was completely out.

Amherst Fire Chief Mark Boynton said the fire is being investigated.

“There is heavy heat and smoke damage inside the building,” Boynton said.

He said it was unlikely the building will be salvageable.

“They’d have to completely renovate,” Boynton said.

Lately, the chief has been alerting residents to the fire dangers posed by houses built during a building boom in the 1960s and 1970s, when, he said, there weren’t strict fire codes or the codes weren’t enforced.

Boynton said on Tuesday, that the Brookwood Drive house falls into that category. The chief said that residents who have a brick fireplace built between 1950 and 1980 should stop using them until they’ve been inspected.

After a fire on Oct. 28 on Old Milford Road, he said it was the fourth such fire in Amherst in less than a year.

Builders at that time didn’t create proper separation between combustible material and heat sources, such as fireplaces and wood stoves, Boynton said.