Afternoon blaze engulfs Potash Brook home

The fully involved house just before the arrival of the Chester Fire Department. To launch gallery click on any photo. All photos and video by Shawn Cunningham

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

When Andover Road resident Debbie Richardson arrived home from work just after 4 p.m. on Friday, she noticed smoke at the house across the stream, but thought it might be an outdoor fire.

As she got closer, Richardson realized her neighbor’s house was on fire and called 911.

Chester firefighters knock down the fire with their hoses moments after arriving.

Richardson said that the house at 3 Potash Brook Road – identified as belonging to John Orchitt by other neighbors – was burning at the north end, farthest from the river.

But by the time the Chester Fire Department arrived, the entire front of the house was in flames, thick black smoke was rising from the site and loud booms mixed with the horn of a burning pickup truck could be heard coming from the fire. (Click on video above.)

Chester firefighters knocked down the fire, but could not enter the house until tankers arrived with more water.

The skeleton of the front of the house.

At about 4:40 p.m., firefighters got word that the Vermont State Police had contacted Orchitt and learned that there were “no humans” in the house and at about the same time arcing from the still connected electrical systems could be seen. Green Mountain Power arrived a bit later and cut off the electricity to the building.

Just before 5 p.m., Chester Fire Chief Matt Wilson warned firefighters to be cautious as ammunition in the house was igniting and going off.

Chester Ambulance personnel – in reflective vests – stand by at the scene.

Chester Police closed the Andover Road at Rt. 11, but kept one lane open for traffic coming from Andover toward Chester. Once emptied, tankers drew water from the hydrant near the old armory building on Rt. 11 at Balch Road.

In addition to Chester Fire and Chester Ambulance, Proctorsville, Rockingham, Springfield, Ludlow, Weston, Bellows Falls, Windham, South Londonderry and Ascutney responded to the call. Other departments were still arriving at 5 p.m.

Shortly after 6 p.m., the departments that responded to mutual aid calls began to be released. Cause of the fire had not been announced by publishing time. The Telegraph will have a fuller story on the fire later tonight or tomorrow.



Firefighter had to wait for water before opening the house and entering.

A firefighter looks on as electricity arcs in the burning structure.

The Proctorsville tanker drops a load of water in a dump tank on Andover Road. Firefighters relied on tankers for water supply.

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