Suspicious fire razes Londonderry home; Andover fire goes underground, prompting sleepless night for firefighters

By Shawn Cunningham
©2015 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

Tuesday continued to be a busy day for firefighters throughout the region, with Chester crews staying overnight in Andover to monitor what has turned into a ground and root fire and with South Londonderry firefighters responding to a pre-dawn house fire at 2687 Under the Mountain Road. Crews from Ludlow and Proctorsville also joined the Chester crews in morning.

A house on Under The Mountain Road in South Londonderry burned quickly on Tuesday morning. Photos by Melvin Twitchell.

A house on Under The Mountain Road in South Londonderry burned quickly on Tuesday morning. Photos by Melvin Twitchell, South Londonderry Fire Dept.

With a Red Flag warning issued statewide, Monday ended with 25 new reports of wild fires, forcing the the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation to order all of the state’s forest fire wardens to stop issuing burn permits for the next two weeks, from 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 5 through Tuesday, May 19.

Around 5:01 a.m. on Tuesday,  the South Londonderry Fire Department responded to a report of a fire at 2687 Under The Mountain Road in Londonderry. Crews from Londonderry, Weston, Winhall, Stratton and Jamaica responded as well.

According to state police, a neighbor had awoken and heard what sounded like fire popping, looked out to see flames  high in the sky. He called 911.

The first fire personnel who arrived found the home engulfed in flames. The home, which dated to the 1830s, was destroyed and collapsed during firefighting efforts.  “With the house on the ground,” said Jeff Duda, deputy chief of the South Londonderry Fire Department, “the problem was the grass fire heading for the woods. Fortunately for us, there was a pond to draw water from.” Damages were estimated at $850,000 and no one was injured in the fire.

Just two chimneys were left standing  as firefighters turned to a rapidly spreading grassfire.

Just two chimneys were left standing as firefighters turned to a rapidly spreading grassfire.

Duda contacted the Vermont State Police to investigate the cause of the fire. The house was  a seasonal residence and not occupied at the time of the fire. A detective from the Fire Investigation Unit responded to the scene later in the day.  Duda said that the cause is uncertain, but it appeared that the fire began“close to the roadside.”

At this time, Vermont State Police say that the cause of the fire is undetermined and suspicious. Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the Arson Tip Line at 1-800-32-ARSON (There is up to a $5,000 reward for information resulting in an arrest) or the Vermont State Police at the Rockingham Barracks at 802-875-2112.

In Andover, 20 Chester firefighters spent Monday night at the scene of a 20-acre brush and forest fire that brought 21 fire companies and 120 firefighters out on Monday afternoon. You can read that initial Telegraph story here. At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Chester Fire Chief Matt Wilson said that 100 percent of the fire was contained and 90 percent of the forest fire was extinguished, but the work has taken its toll. “Nobody here got more than half an hour of sleep last night,” said Wilson pointing to flareups including one in which an enormous oak tree burned from its roots with fire hollowing out the inside.

“I was hoping to get everybody out by noon,” said Wilson. “But it’s looking more like 3 p.m.” Wilson said that the fire had gone underground, burning roots and spreading with the potential to pop up anywhere.  “There’s a huge likelihood that we’ll be coming back here,” Wilson continued. “I hope not, but if rain doesn’t come, the fire will pop up and it will be bad.”

The cause of the fire was the burning of brush at a logging site. According to Andover Fire Warden Alan Plumb, the logger working the site had a permit to burn on Friday and that Monday’s winds reignited the brush pile.

Between 8 and 10 of the 120 fighting the fire had to be taken off the line for medical complaints arising from heat and smoke. Most were rested, observed and cleared to resume duty. No one was transported to the hospital.

The Chester department had nearly arrive in Brookline to fight a brush fire when it got the call for the Andover fire and had to turn around and come back. In yesterday’s report The Telegraph did not mention that firefighters from Hartland also helped work on the Andover blaze.

Nate Pond, the owner of the farm, house and hangar that was damaged, praised the firefighters.  “The road was solid with trucks and tankers,” said Pond. “They did a good job putting it out.”

Wilson agreed, saying, “Everyone did a really great job.”

Cynthia Prairie contributed to this article.

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  1. High Fives to all who fight our fires! Quality people for sure!! Thank you!
    Mike LeClair