NEWRY – A young man’s desire to warm up by starting a fire in the fireplace of his friends’ home on Powder Ridge Road on Tuesday afternoon accidentally ignited the $466,000 home, Assistant Chief Bruce Pierce said.

Firefighters from Bethel, Newry, Gilead, Greenwood and Woodstock, and a Med-Care Ambulance crew responded to Jonathan Ryan’s 2:44 p.m. call for help after the chimney fire at 5 Powder Ridge Road became a structure fire.

Pierce said there was a malfunction in the insulated metal chimney pipe that allowed flames to leak through molding and into interior woodwork. The cause of the malfunction was undetermined by a state fire investigator who arrived at 4:15 p.m.

The house, which was bought in 2007, is owned by Rafael Castro and Elizabeth Vasallo of Dedham, Mass., according to deputy Town Clerk Anita Clark.

Pierce estimated water and fire damage at between $100,000 and $150,000.

When the 911 call from Ryan came in at the Oxford County Regional Dispatch Center in Paris, Pierce said dispatchers had a difficult time understanding what he was saying due to his thick Irish or Scottish accent.

That’s why Bethel firefighters were first contacted and told to head to a chimney fire at the Powder Ridge Road address in Bethel.

Pierce, however, said he heard the scanner call, contacted dispatchers and told them it was in Newry.

Bethel was called off and Newry sent a minute later. Then, as arriving Newry firefighters saw that it was a structure fire, Pierce had Bethel and firefighters and equipment from the other three towns sent to the scene.

“Engine 1 came around the corner and saw smoke and fire coming from the roof, so we called out the army, everyone we could get,” Pierce said.

Teams of firefighters using breathing gear fought the fire inside the two-story wooden home while Newry firefighter Ed Powers high overhead in an aerial ladder bucket doused flames erupting through the roof and chimney area.

Pierce said the fire began burning in the basement area, then traveled up through molding, setting fire to a wooden housing at the top metal chimney pipe, then extending along the roof ridge.

Firefighters had to contend with a water cistern that didn’t work and a problematic fire pond farther downhill, Pierce said.

To fight the fire, they used 5,600 gallons of water from two Newry firetrucks, and 4,000 gallons from a Woodstock tanker fed through a Bethel pumper.



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