Pownal, Vt. fire destroys 3 buildings, leaves home intact

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POWNAL, VT. — An early morning 186 Church St. blaze consumed a silo, barn, and an outbuilding but left a home standing less than 50 feet away from the flames intact and unharmed.

Pownal Protective Fire Association volunteer firefighters responding to the 6:07 a.m. call found flames burning the silo and barn, PPFA Fire Chief Keith "Woody" Coon said during a fire scene interview.

"We were lucky that we had a good water source here with fire hydrants," Coon said. "We weren't scrambling trying to find water."

Parts of Pownal are not served by hydrants and also lack water sources such as ponds and brooks, he noted.

Property owners Deborah Fehr and Harold Wolpert said neighbors alerted them to the fire in their backyard.

"They were banging on the door and they told us they had called 911," Wolpert said. "I had seen the fire by that point. The silo was involved and I could see the flames creeping down and along the ground. It got to the barn."

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The silo was an important part of the yard landscape, Fehr said.

"It was sad watching it burn down," she said.

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The property is insured and insurance adjustors were notified, Wolpert and Fehr said. Whether they will rebuild at the site has not been decided, they said.

Neighbors said that fireworks were being set off on Saturday night from neighborhood yards. Church Street resident David Starkey said that some of the explosives seemed very loud and big, and cascading showers of sparks were falling in the area of the silo.

Coon said that the fire cause is under investigation. Vermont State Police Fire Investigator Todd Ambrose and state Division of Fire Safety Fire Marshal Paul Spicer were at the scene and emphasized that it was premature to speculate about a cause. Coon said that the barn had active electrical service at the time of the fire. Green Mountain power company workers terminated power service to the barn because of the fire, firefighters said.

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Coon praised the quick response delivered by mutual assistance volunteer departments. Firefighters from the Pownal Valley, Bennington, Vt., Bennington Rural and Williamstown volunteer fire departments provided assistance at the scene. Coon said that a total of about 40 to 45 firefighters were at the scene at one point.

"We are appreciative of the mutual aid response," he said. "It's a holiday weekend, people go out of town, it's a Sunday morning and the volunteer firefighters are out here responding to a call. All the volunteer departments rely on mutual aid and we are all thankful for it. These departments are essential to us and we are essential to them."

Fehr and Wolpert said that the quick firefighter response probably kept flames from their home.

"We are very grateful to the volunteer firefighters and the departments," Fehr said. "

"They were right on top of it as soon as they arrived," Wolpert said.


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