, Newburyport, MA

May 7, 2013

Cause found for West Newbury house fire

Investigators: 'Improper disposal of smoking materials' led to blaze

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — WEST NEWBURY — The state fire marshal’s office announced yesterday that improper disposal of smoking materials was the cause of last Wednesday’s massive house fire on Main Street.

The mid-afternoon blaze, which forced the closure of West Newbury’s highest-profile road for several hours, burned an adjacent barn to its stone foundation and damaged the circa-1850 house located at 230 Main St. so severely that it was demolished the next day.

Jennifer Mieth, public information officer for the state fire marshal’s office, said her office strongly encouraged smokers to properly dispose of cigarettes and cigars.

“We get a lot of outdoor fires due to smoking materials,” Mieth said, adding that too often these items end up on dried piles of mulch or wood that can easily catch on fire.

West Newbury fire Chief Scott Berkenbush said the town’s building inspector visited the house soon after the fire and quickly determined the building had to be torn down. The next day, work crews fulfilled the building inspector’s wishes.

“It’s already gone,” Berkenbush said yesterday.

By the time first responders arrived at the house around 4 p.m. last Wednesday, the heaviest flames were concentrated inside an L-shaped structure connecting the main house and a barn. Fire quickly spread to the barn, causing it to burn so intensely, heat could be felt several yards away. Before the property was purchased by Carl and Linda Adler, who had hoped to renovate the main house, the barn housed Ringo’s Furniture, a popular stop for those seeking antiques.

It wasn’t long before the barn burned down to the ground. 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.

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.

As firefighters battled the main blaze, a state forestry unit arrived at the 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.

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.