PHOTOS: Fire above downtown White River Junction; four cats perish but two are saved by firefighters
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - Fire roared through one end of a duplex trailer in the Chambers trailer park overlooking downtown White River Junction late Sunday evening.
The blaze at 58 Spring Circle was first reported to the Hartford fire department at 10:42 p.m. which immediately struck a first alarm bringing mutual aid companies to the scene from Lebanon, Hanover, and Norwich.
Neighbors said the half of the trailer where the fire began was rented to 26-year-old Ivan Duetsch but he was not home and had not been seen at the residence since Friday.
"It's a very small space but we believe the fire started in the front corner of the trailer," Hartford Fire Chief Scott Cooney explained after the blaze had been brought under control. "This side was unoccupied at the time of the fire and we have yet to locate the occupant or speak to them," Cooney said, noting that the fire investigation was just getting underway.
On the other end of the trailer resident Valerie Davis was just about to call it a night when she discovered the fire.
"I was sitting there watching TV and I was getting ready to go to bed when I smelled something and when I went into the bathroom to look I opened the medicine cabinet and white smoke came out," a shaken Davis recalled as she stood on the narrow roadway between the rows of trailers and watched the firefighting operation.
Valerie Davis (in pink) watches as firefighters work to revive her two surviving cats
Relatives had given Davis a collection of cats recently, "I've got the mom and dad and four kittens," she explained. Firefighters were able to locate all six cats inside Davis' tiny space but due to the intense smoke conditions there were only two which were viable; however, by using tiny oxygen masks specifically designed for pets firefighters were able to revive "Max," the father of the litter, and one of his grey kittens whom Davis said she was going to name "Smokey" given the events of the evening.
One of Davis' neighbors, Robert Murphy, said he has lived in the park for over 20 years and seen one other large trailer fire in that time. On Sunday night he was one of the first to reach the burning structure and make sure Davis was okay and didn't go back inside.
"I drove up around the corner and flames were flying out the window on the end from the inside," Murphy recalled, "The fire was rolling out the windows really heavy. I told (Davis) to call 911 but she was already on the phone doing that."
"The fire guys did a good job," Murphy continued, "They got here in a timely manner and they were right on it."
Hartford Paramedic Mike Tidwell (left) readies a special pet-sized mask as Hanover Captain Michael Gilbert and Hanover Firefighter Jeremiah Linehan (right) get set to administer oxygen to each of the cats
Tidwell passes Captain Gilbert the oxygen mask for the surviving kitten
After several minutes both cats were noticeably more alert...and noisy...before they were transported to the SAVES animal hospital in Lebanon for overnight observation
Davis was put up for the evening at a local hotel by the American Red Cross
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