Couple Escapes From

Front Page / Jan. 27, 2007 12:00am EST

Burning Rental Home
By Sandy Cooch
Couple Escapes From

Couple Escapes From

Burning Rental Home

By Sandy Cooch

Tuesday night in Royalton, a Vermont Law School student and his wife escaped without injury from a fast-burning fire at their rental home on Balla Machree Farm on Broad Brook Road.

First-year law student John Meyer and Sibron Simonsen were awakened by a smoke alarm, according to Randy Leavitt. The Balla Machree Farm is owned by the Powers family, and Leavitt and his wife, Heather Powers Leavitt, live on the farm, not far from the small rental house that burned. Although the couple escaped uninjured, they lost virtually all of their possessions in the fire, Leavitt said.

Leavitt said Meyer and his wife got up with the smoke alarm to find the wall behind a woodstove on fire. They threw water on the flames, which extinguished the blaze, but only briefly. The fire quickly reappeared and spread, however, and the couple fled the building, calling 911 on a cell phone on the way out.

Royalton firefighters, assisted by three other fire departments, were able to knock down the fire fairly quickly, according to Royalton Fire Chief David Whitney.

However, the house suffered serious fire, smoke and heat damage, and it is not yet clear whether or not it will be reconstructed, Leavitt said.

Chief Whitney said the alarm came in at 11:20 p.m., and firefighters arrived on scene to find the addition fully involved, with fire showing through the roof. Chief Whitney credited mutual aid from the Barnard, East Barnard, and Sharon Departments, with helping Royalton get the blaze quickly under control.

With the extra tankers and a pump on Broad Brook, he said, there was plenty of water for the effort.

Whitney gave special thanks to Barnard personnel, who chopped a hole in the roof of the ell, to vent the heat in the building. The maneuver, he said, helped to keep the flames from moving into the main part of the building, which nonetheless suffered smoke and heat damage.

"It was very fast-moving," Whitney commented.

"All departments did an excellent job; definitely everyone worked well together," the chief added.

As standard protocol, personnel from Royalton Rescue stayed on stand-by, on scene, until firefighters left, around 2 a.m.

Whitney hypothesized that the fire started slowly in the plywood wall behind the woodstove. A metal sheet on the wall may have masked gradual charring, he said.

Bushrod Powers reported yesterday that Meyer and Simonsen are staying in his own home, as they look for a new rental. He said he has heard that VLS has moved quickly to assist the couple.

The small house that burned is one of eight residential buildings on the Balla Machree Farm. The oldest part of the one-and-a-half story cape that burned is about 100 years old, Leavitt estimated.

Creosote Warning

This week, Chief Whitney cautioned residents to check stove pipes and chimneys if they have been burning slow fires. This winter’s warmer than average—and variable—temperatures can contribute to creosote build-up. With sub-zero weather in the forecasts, people will likely burn hotter fires, which could trigger chimney fires, he warned.

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