No cause determined for Milford house fire

Firefighters hampered by papers which filled building

MILFORD – The 19th-century house on Elm Street that was destroyed by fire last week offered firefighters unusual chal­lenges.

It was packed with items, including newspa­pers that filled the attic from floor to ceiling, and 40 years’ worth of Nation­al Geographic magazines.

There was so much stuff in the house, which was unoccupied at the time of

Chief Jack Kelly stopped his firefighters from go­ing inside, saying it was unsafe. So all firefighting had to be done from the outside.

"It was hard to get the doors open," Kelly said Monday, noting that even the staircases were full. "You couldn’t move around."

The old house at 83 Elm St. was built using balloon-frame construc­tion, which allows fire to spread quickly from the lower floors to the upper because there are no fire stops.

With a balloon-frame building, "When there is a fire on the first floor, it will go right to the attic," Kelly said.

So far, the cause of the Wednesday, Aug. 10, fire, which went to two alarms, hasn’t been determined, but it doesn’t appear to be suspicious, Kelly said.

Firefighters and equip­ment from six towns worked on the blaze that brought out dozens of spectators on that rainy morning. Police and public works employees closed Elm Street and re­routed traffic away from the scene.

A Hollis Fire Depart­ment truck brought equipment up to the roof, where firefighters vent­ed smoke and eventu­ally used a fixed nozzle to force a powerful stream of water at key points on the upper floor.

John Farwell, the build­ing’s owner, watched from a lawn chair between gasoline pumps at the Xtra Mart station across Elm Street. He said he has had an apartment in the building for about 40 years, but doesn’t live there full time.

Firefighters from Am­herst, Brookline, Hollis, Mont Vernon and Wilton helped Milford with the fire.

As their work was wind­ing down, Kelly said, fire­fighters switched one hose from the fire hydrant in front of the nearby nursing home to one near the Xtra Mart.

"There was no prob­lem," he said Monday. "It didn’t hamper the fire­fighting."

Water Department Di­rector David Boucher said three trucks were pumping water that morn­ing, and the hydrant near the Elm Street nursing home is an old-style one with a 6-inch-diameter opening rather than 8 inches.

There will be a flow test on the hydrant this week, he said, but "it’s not broken."

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.