‘Whole lot of luck’ spares Chester home from afternoon fire

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Chester firefighters tear away siding to look for fire underneath. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Events could have worked out very differently this afternoon on Orcutt Drive in Chester. But when the wire from a Green Mountain Power pole to Kyle and Becky Martens’ house began arcing and caught fire, everything fell into place to keep what could have been a major fire from happening.

Just before 1 p.m., the Martens’ neighbor, Kim Rawson, heard a pop and thought it might have been a bird hitting something. When she heard another, pop she looked out her window to see that the wire had burst into flames. Rawson called 911 and then ran next door.

“I was banging on the door thinking that Becky was inside and the baby might be down for a nap,” said Rawson. “If I hadn’t been in the living room, I wouldn’t have heard it.” Luckily, the Martens’ 11-month-old baby was with Becky Martens’ mother while she took a walk.

Live electrical wires drape across a bush in the front yard while the end of the wire – next to the house – burns.

While Rawson was talking with the 911 operator, the flaming wire fell off the building and landed next to the side of the house.

Meanwhile, a mile away at Blue Hill Road and Route 11, the Chester Fire Department was setting up traffic control for a motor vehicle accident when the Orcutt Drive call came in at 1:04 p.m.

“We were here in about a minute,” Chester Fire Chief Matt Wilson said, adding that the live wire would restrict the firefighters’ use of water. “That’s why we have this set up,” Wilson said, pointing to hoses next to Rawson’s house. “If (the wire) catches the siding on fire, we can protect (Rawson’s) house but we can’t put any water on (Martens’).”

GMP workers cut power to the downed line.

Shortly after the Chester Fire Department arrived, firefighters said they asked Green Mountain Power to shut down the grid, but the utility refused, saying it would send linemen to handle the situation while firefighters stood by hoping the house would not ignite. About half an hour later, a GMP truck arrived to kill the power. Firefighters were then able to inspect the burned area at the peak of the roof and confirm that the fire was out.

Damage was minimal and confined to the roof overhang. “If that’s all there is we can fix it,” said Kyle Martens.

“There was nothing but a whole lot of luck here today,” said Wilson,  learning that the siding on the house was aluminum rather than flammable wood or vinyl.

In addition to the Chester Fire Department, Proctorsville Fire, Ludlow Ambulance and Chester Police responded to the incident.

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  1. Edmund Winnicki says:

    How can, and why did GMP refuse to turn off the power? I would hope that they would be required by law to follow requests of a fire department.

  2. Thanks to all who so quickly and efficiently helped to keep neighbors and their homes safe and free from greater harm.