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 firstname.lastname@example.org.