, Newburyport, MA

June 19, 2013

'A wall of fire'

Rowley blaze displaces families, kills dog

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — ROWLEY — Four people were left without a place to sleep after a rolling three-alarm fire consumed much of a Central Street house yesterday afternoon, killing a dog belonging to one of the homeowners.

Fire departments from across the region converged upon the 113-year-old home around 12:30 p.m. to see walls of flame shooting from the back of 112-114 Central St.

Watching the house that has been in his family’s name for generations burn, Terrance Barboro said he was inside his residence at 114 Central St. when his brother, Richard, rushed in to say the house was on fire and they had to leave immediately.

“I ran over to his side to see what it was,” Terrance Barboro said, adding a good portion of the house was in flames.

By the time he headed back to his unit to rescue his dog, Ozie, it was too late, as the dog fell victim to the rapidly building fire. A cat living with him was able to escape, he said.

A visibly shaken Terrance Barboro said he was able to escape unscathed, but his brother was transported to Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport for smoke inhalation. Terrance Barboro said he was trying to reach his brother’s wife to tell her about the fire.

Rowley Deputy Fire Chief Roger Merry said that by the time first responders arrived at the scene, the back side of the house was consumed by fire.

“Just a wall of fire,” Merry said.

Assisting local firefighters were units from Georgetown, Boxford, Topsfield, Ipswich, Byfield, Newbury and Amesbury. Handing out bottles of water and protein bars to weary firefighters were volunteers from Rehab 5, a firefighter support organization that is active in 21 communities. An EMT unit was on hand as well, tending to one firefighter who apparently suffered a foot injury.

The duplex, built in 1900 and last assessed at $266,100 by the town’s assessor’s office, is located feet away from the busy secondary road. Rowley police closed off Central Street to Cross Street and about a quarter of a mile the other direction. Traffic was detoured around the affected area for hours as firefighters extinguished the stingy blaze.

With live power lines directly overhead, firefighters were forced to alter their normal strategy until workers shut off electricity to the area. Merry said he was reluctant to place firefighters on the roof to ventilate it, forcing him to blast holes from a water cannon located on the Rowley Fire Department’s aerial truck.

Not wanting to risk someone getting electrocuted, two firefighters, including Newbury fire Chief William Pearson, used ropes to manipulate the aerial truck’s cannon onto sections of the roof. Eventually, the roof succumbed to the water pressure, sending columns of flame into the sky as onlookers gasped.

Merry said firefighters initially attacked the building from the first floor, but once the fire spread to the second level, he decided to pull everyone out. Compounding the danger, Merry added, was the presence of ammunition, fireworks and large propane tanks inside the structure.

“It wasn’t worth the risk,” Merry said, adding the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Merry said the house was deemed a total loss by the town’s building inspector. A representative from the state fire marshal’s office was due to visit the scene last night to conduct its own investigation.