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.