By Dave Rogers
---- — WEST NEWBURY — Carl and Linda Adler’s dream of renovating the circa-1850 house on Main Street they purchased in February was reduced to ashes yesterday afternoon after a three-alarm fire tore through the two-story structure over the course of several hours.
A shaken Carl Adler said at least one person had been painting inside the house, located at 230 Main St., during the afternoon and had left briefly before the fire broke out. The house was unoccupied and almost empty at the time of the fire.
West Newbury fire Chief Scott Berkenbush said by the time first responders arrived at the house around 4 p.m., the heaviest flames were concentrated inside an L-shaped structure connecting the main house and a barn. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation, Berkenbush added.
Police closed off Main Street for several blocks in both directions, diverting traffic as far away as the West Newbury House of Pizza. That didn’t stop scores of people, many with cellphones and professional cameras, from watching the dramatic scene.
Fire quickly spread to the barn, causing it to burn so intensely, heat could be felt several yards away. It wasn’t long before the barn burned down to its stone foundation. Fire also made its way into the house. For more than 35 minutes firefighters tried knocking down the blaze from inside, but when it was determined the fire had spread in between the ceiling and roof, compromising the structure, Berkenbush pulled firefighters out.
“We had to let the fire burn through the roof to knock it down,” Berkenbush said.
Firefighters punctured the roof in strategic areas to allow firefighters encircling the house and above it in a Newburyport ladder truck to pour as much water as possible on it.
“I can’t say enough, it’s almost harder to hold them back than to rush in,” Berkenbush said.
As firefighters battled the main blaze, a state forestry unit arrived at scene to knock down small outside fires that popped up. An Atlantic Ambulance crew and a rehabilitation unit from Peabody were called to the scene to aid firefighters. West Newbury fire volunteers were on hand passing out bottled water and protein bars to weary firefighters. As dinnertime approached, the same volunteers were delivering pizzas to the scene.
Around 7:20 p.m. local traffic was allowed closer to the scene and firefighters from neighboring communities were cleared to leave.
Assisting local firefighters were units from Amesbury, Newburyport, Georgetown, Groveland and Byfield. Newbury and Haverhill firefighters were among those manning the Main Street station while firefighters battled the blaze. There were no injuries.
Berkenbush had nothing but praise for the legion of firefighters and volunteers who helped out.
“It’s just amazing,” Berkenbush said.