Family Makes Narrow Escape, Pets Missing
According to Randolph Village Fire Chief Jay Collette, all three Randolph fire departments (Village, East Randolph, and Randolph Center), responded at about 3:30 p.m., remaining on the scene until about 7 p.m.
“The home burned to the ground,” he said, noting that “the initial call was three people trapped who couldn’t get out, but by the time we got there, they had found another way.” Based on discussion with the homeowners, Collette said, the fire was likely started by a wood furnace in the basement, that they had been having trouble with.
Interviewed by phone Tuesday morning, Rose Olmstead said she suspected the furnace was the likely culprit. Olmstead lived in the Bent Hill home with her husband, Ted, their daughter, Christine Brown, and her husband, Jason Brown.
“I had just gotten home from work and my daughter was cooking supper,” Olmstead said.
Her daughter noticed smoke when she went to let the dogs inside.
Surrounded by the gutted remains of her brother's home, Patty LaPlante looks on as her son, Douglas, locates the severed cable which provided their home's electric service before Tuesday's blaze. (Herald / Bob Eddy)
“Ted went down cellar and Jason went outside on the porch to check there and he saw flames coming from underneath the porch.” Olmstead called the fire department and the family quickly tried to find their two dogs and two cats, but soon found themselves trapped in the house.
“We couldn’t get out the front door, so we went out the side door, jumping out into the snow,” she explained.
High winds on Bent Hill sped the fire along and briefly delayed the Olmsteads’ and Browns’ departure.
“We thought it was just a lot of smoke coming from the chimney, because the wind was blowing,” Olmstead said.
According to Chief Collette the heavy winds complicated the fire departments’ work. “The wind was blowing pretty hard and that led to catching the timbers on fire pretty quickly, since the structure was old and the wood was dry,” he said.
“The driveway was rather long and inaccessible for the fire truck to get right up to the structure, so everything had to be carried up the hill and that slowed down the response.”
As of Tuesday morning, Olmstead said they had only found one of the family cats, and believe the other pets must have died in the fire.
The Olmsteads are currently staying with Richard and Julie Bowen (Julie is one of Rose’s co-workers at the Randolph Senior Center), and the Browns are staying with Christine’s brother in Bethel.
Ted Olmstead had owned the property on Bent Hill Road since 1968, and Rose moved in when they were married in 1985.
“I’m still in shock,” she said, noting that she planned to meet with a representative from the Red Cross that afternoon, and expected to hear from their insurance company, also.
Anyone who would like to help out, may call the Bowen house at 728-9797