, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 11, 2013

Blizzard blaze destroys West Newbury home

Family escapes without injury, but loss immense


“It’s unfortunate, but it seems to happen,” Berkenbush said.

While West Newbury is a call fire department, given that past history with storm fires, Berkenbush took measures to staff the town’s fire station Friday night. He knew that if a fire broke out, his call firefighters would have trouble getting to the station and then responding to the scene in the storm if they weren’t already at headquarters. In hindsight, his advance planning proved a smart call.The Renaus’ alarm system alerted the fire department even before the couple called for help.

Situated down a private driveway off River Road, the house was built in 1991, according to town records. The Renaus, who have lived in West Newbury since 1989, bought the property in 2007 from Clifford Irons for $867,500. Anthony Renau is a chief scientific technology officer with Applied Materials Inc. in Gloucester. Carolyn Renau is a clinical social worker with the Timberlane Regional School District in southern New Hampshire.

The Renaus are currently staying with a neighbor, who has invited them to stay as long they need to. While the couple will begin seeking rental property in the coming days, Carolyn Renau said she has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and assistance from the community.

“We’ve gotten more offers from people. People have just been amazing, saying our house is your house, offering meals,” she said. “People are really opening up their hearts.”

Renau said it will take some time for her family to assess the damage and decide their next step. While the garage, which housed two cars, and another building on the property, which also contained vehicles, were not destroyed, the Renaus as of yesterday morning had yet to see if the vehicles were still operational. An inground swimming pool and outbuilding also were not damaged.

While Renau agreed material objects are replaceable, the loss of personal possessions, like photographs, will be harder to accept. While still trying to sort out the enormity of the cleanup and road ahead, Renau was fairly certain of one thing. Her family likely would be returning to a home by the Merrimack River someday.

“We probably will rebuild,” she said.

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