Fire destroys historic house

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Crews battle blaze late into the night

By Tom Wilmoth

    Jamie Snell and his wife returned home late Saturday night and saw what they first thought was fog surrounding their home at 719 Longwood Ave. in Bedford.


    Quickly, however, they realized it was something much worse—their home was on fire.
    Snell and a passer-by rushed to the door to try and get in to save their dog and puppies. But once opened, the door revealed a fire  that  would  take  30   area  firefighters some six hours to fully extinguish. And once it was out, only a burnt-out shell was left of their historic home, originally built in 1891.
    Firefighters in Bedford received the call at 11:30 p.m. Saturday and were on the scene within five minutes. Upon arrival they found heavy fire showing from the front porch and side of the home.
    While they were able to make a good initial knockdown of the blaze and get inside the home, the firefighters had to battle the quickly-spreading fire. Because of its historic construction, Bedford Fire Chief Brad Creasy said more-modern fire stops weren't built into the home.
    Initially, the firefighters' job was to knock down and search for victims. Because the homeowners were already outside, they were able to determine that only the family's pets were in danger. Attempts to save them failed.
    Creasy said the fire began on the ground floor around the wood stove and quickly spread up to the second floor and attic because of the balloon frame construction in which studs are lined up from the floor to each floor. While the main fire was extinguished within an hour of the call, firefighters stayed on the scene until almost 5 a.m. Sunday putting out fires in the wall and void spaces that would flare up.
    “The old houses like this, they're not the typical fires we respond to,” Creasy said of the amount of time it took to fully put out the fire.
    The stairs to the second floor were also quickly damaged in the blaze, making it more difficult for firefighters to reach the fire above the ground floor. They attacked it from several different angles, including using the ladder truck to provide access to the attic in the front of the house.
    “We were able to save some personal items,” Creasy said. Those included wedding rings, some Christmas presents, some quilts and a safe located upstairs. It had been badly burned but the documents inside weren't damaged. “Some things that can't be replaced we were able to locate and save,” Creasy said.
    Creasy said he believed the home was a total loss.
    Three firefighters suffered minor injuries—one suffered burns to an ear and two were injured when they partially fell through the first floor—and all refused transport to the hospital.
    Firefighters from Forest, Big Island and Montvale joined Bedford firefighters in battling the fire.
    “A fire like that pushes people to their limit,” Creasy said, noting that most of the firefighters went through four or five air bottles while working the fire.