David Hersey, who works in construction, said older houses tend to have what is called a balloon frame, meaning the frame is made of a line of studs the height of the structure. A significant problem with that design is it can channel fire up the walls and allow it to spread to other floors quickly.
Newer homes are built with a platform frame structure to prevent a fire from spreading that way. Some older homes with balloon frames have blocks installed between the floors as well.
“The flames first came out of that (front) corner and then shot up the walls to the second floor,” he said. He was in the area just as the fire started, he said.
Salem, N.H., firefighters arrived on scene to assist, and Lawrence Fire helped provide coverage during the blaze. Methuen Police provided its mobile command center vehicle for the Webster-Greenes for heat and shelter during the afternoon.
Denis Webster-Greene is president of the Methuen Historical Society and husband Paul is founder and director of the North Region Theatre Workshop.