Residents knocked the flames down with a household extinguisher
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - Sooty smoke filled a house on Latham Works Lane Friday morning but what was initially feared to be working structure fire turned out to be a furnace malfunction which was quickly contained.
"The alarm thing went off and we went downstairs and there were flames around the bottom of the furnace so we grabbed a fire extinguisher and I sprayed it out," recalled Earl Grose whose daughter, Jaime Neily, owns and lives in the two-and-a-half story wood framed home with her children, "And then immediately we called the fire department and they were on their way and we got the hell out of there."
Earl Grose carries a fire extinguisher out as firefighters enter the residence
Because of the credible report of a potential house fire, Hartford struck a first alarm at 9:20 a.m. which brought additional fire companies from Lebanon and Hanover into downtown White River Junction but most of that mutual aid was turned around minutes after Hartford's first-due engine company got on the scene, something that was complicated by a train which was rolling through the nearby Nutt Lane railroad crossing.
Trains maneuvering on the Nutt Lane crossing complicated the response Friday morning
"What made it difficult today was that we had a train on the tracks so we had to use our alternate emergency access route to get through to the residence," Hartford Fire Chief Scott Cooney noted.
That route, which curves from the courthouse parking lot downtown through the rail yard known as "the wye" right behind the train station to a special gate near the end of Latham Works Lane, was carved out several years ago because of concerns that trains could effectively strand the 40 houses which sit beyond the crossing during just the kind of emergency that occurred Friday morning.
"We arrived to find some smoke conditions in the building," the chief recalled. "It was all related to improper burning within the fuel appliance so there was no extension anywhere in the building. There were some high carbon monoxide readings inside when we first got here but we evacuated the smoke and that has since gone down."
Hartford Fire Lt. Jack Hedges (left) and Fire Chief Scoot Cooney discuss an emergency cutoff switch
Chief Cooney said that, despite the lingering smoky smells, the house itself will be habitable for Neily and her children to continue to live in until the furnace is serviced. "They have an alternate source of heat, they have a pellet stove in the building as well," he noted.
Firefighters used large smoke ejector fans to ventilate the home
A firefighter's axe props open a window
"I love the fire department!," Jaime Neily said after the situation was brought under control. "They got jammed up with the train, they would have been here faster if it wasn't in the way, but their response was great."
Grose (left) and his daughter Jaime Neily talk to fire officials about her furnace
Neily said she was less impressed with her furnace technicians whom she said had been there three days beforehand after she called them about what seemed like excessive black smoke coming from her chimney.
"I asked 'Is this okay?' and they told me it was okay but it just had to burn off everything that was in it," Neily recalled, adding "I said 'If this was your family you would definitely stay in the house?' and they said 'Yes' and so I stayed. I was getting ready for work this morning, then the smoke detector was going off and I was like 'Dad! Dad! Dad!' and I went downstairs and when I opened up the door it was black smoke down in the cellar, then I looked over at the furnace and I was like freaking out."
Homeowner Jaime Neily got a hug from a friend at the scene after the situation was declared under control
Vermont News can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org