Potash Brook home looks to be a total loss

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Firefighters are saying that a fire late Friday afternoon destroyed a home at 3 Potash Brook Road in Chester. Eleven fire departments and the Chester Ambulance service responded to the blaze and one minor injury to a firefighter was reported.

Chester firefighters pour water on the fire while ammunition can be heard exploding inside the home. The lights to the left and through the window are firefighters searching for people in the house.  Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Chester Fire Chief Matt Wilson said on Sunday that the home, owned by John Orchitt, appeared to be a total loss.

“Even though parts of the structure were saved, they suffered such heavy heat and smoke damage. I’d expect that the insurance company would have it demolished,” said Wilson adding that, “stuff in the kitchen just melted.”

In addition to the house, one truck parked near the house was destroyed and another was heavily damaged.

Wilson said the cause of the fire is yet to be determined but that it is thought that it originated near the fireplace. The cause is expected to be know by Tuesday.

Even before firefighters arrived, a succession of pops and booms could be heard coming from the house. These were explosions from ammunition in the house. Asked how firefighters deal with that, Wilson said “Honestly, just hope for the best.”

Smoke and steam rise from the building as firefighters from several departments work the blaze

Wilson explained that it’s a life safety issue and that with trucks in the driveway, firefighters had an expectation that someone might be inside so they wanted to search the house. At the same time, with ammo exploding, firefighters will search the portions of the house where the explosions were not being heard, like the kitchen.

When Vermont State Police radioed to say they had spoken with Orchitt and no one was in the house, firefighters were able to withdraw from the building, which decreased the danger.

“The casings are getting hot and expanding and when it explodes it doesn’t go like a rifle,” said Wilson.

“To be hit, a firefighter would need to be close to it.” Wilson said, but by the same token, ammunition that’s tightly packed together can go off like a rifle.

As for a safe way to store ammunition in case of a fire, there isn’t agreement on a method. Storing them in a metal box may help, but if the fire is hot enough, the box can concentrate the explosion. Wilson said it’s helpful if a homeowner can alert firefighters on the scene where ammunition is stored.

In addition to Chester Fire and Chester Ambulance, Proctorsville, Rockingham, Springfield, Ludlow, Weston, Bellows Falls,  South Londonderry and Ascutney fire departments responded to the fire while Reading and Grafton covered the Chester station during the event. Departments were released from the fire starting at around 6 p.m. and the Chester trucks were back in quarters around 9:30 p.m.

One firefighter sustained a minor hand injury, Wilson said, adding that no animals were known to be in the home.

 

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  1. J. Currier says:

    I am so sorry, John is a classmate of mine from years ago.

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