Fire destroys Milford home on Elm Street

Fire ripped through a home at 83 Elm St. in Milford on Wednesday, bringing firefighters and equipment from six towns to work on a challenging and stubborn blaze.

No one was injured in the fire that brought out scores of spectators on a rainy morning at the corner of Elm and West streets.

"I looked out my third-story window and I just saw flames shoot up," said Joseph Leight, who lives across from the fire scene at 76 Elm St. "It was pretty intense. Smoke was pouring out of the building."

Smoke and steam from the constant streams of water being poured on the fire continued throughout the morning.

When the first firefighters arrived, they were faced with heavy fire showing on the first floor and two porches, with heavy smoke coming from the second floor, Milford Fire Chief John Kelly said.

"When the companies arrived, they went right to work," he said. "I got the call saying there was somebody trapped in there. Right away we went for a search and rescue."

Kelly said once firefighters determined there was no one inside the building, they concentrated on fighting the flames. However, Kelly said the accumulation of items throughout the building prevented firefighters from actually getting inside.

"Each floor, first, second and the attic, was filled from floor to ceiling with stuff. You just couldn’t get in there and operate," he said. "It was unsafe. I didn’t want my men in there, so I pulled them back. We did everything from the exterior. We had to. We had no choice. That’s why we have the damage that we have."

Milford police and the town’s public works department closed Elm Street, rerouting traffic away from the scene. Flames and smoke descended on the area as firefighters worked. Milford extended a ladder truck’s ladder up to the roof where firefighters worked to vent smoke and, eventually, use a powerful fixed nozzle to force a powerful stream of water at key points of the fire on the upper floors.

"I had to strike a second alarm because I needed that tower," said Kelly, referring to the tower truck brought to the scene by the Hollis Fire Department.

A crew from Hollis worked from the extended tower as flames crept under the eaves in the balloon construction-style home. The firefighters used tools to remove the metal edging along the roof to get to the fire.

Rain poured down on the scene and bystanders, with many of them watching the action from under the cover of a gas station canopy directly across the street. One of the people watching was John Farwell, who said he is the building’s owner.

Farwell sat in a lawn chair between two gas pumps watching clouds of smoke fill the street and the yards of nearby homes.

Farwell said he has had an apartment in the building for about 40 years but said he doesn’t live there full-time. He said the oldest part of the home was built around 1875. An addition was put on in 1900.

Farwell watched intently as the crews tore into the home. Eventually, the fire burned through the center portion of the L-shaped roof, forcing what remained to collapse.

"You couldn’t get to the attic stairs," Kelly said.

The crowded conditions combined with the weight of the water being poured on the building proved too unsafe for an interior attack.

"I was not taking that chance," Kelly said.

Firefighters from Milford, Hollis, Amherst, Wilton, Brookline and Mont Vernon were at the scene.

Firefighters faced the additional challenge of losing the function of a key fire hydrant at the scene for unknown reasons.

"We lost a hydrant," Kelly said. "That was not a good thing."

Operations were briefly shut down while hose lines were adjusted to bring water from another nearby hydrant using an engine from the Wilton Fire Department.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.