Friday, January 4, 2008

Condo Fire in West Dover

It seems incredible, but every year there are deck fires, dumpster fires, and even residential fires like this that are caused by homeowners or their guests placing hot ashes in or on combustable surfaces. This condominium was a complete loss. The cause was determined to be a bag of fireplace ashes that had been left on the front deck.

Fire had just broken through the west side of the building in this photo.

By Mike Eldred
DOVER- No injuries were reported in a New Year’s Eve fire at a condominium unit at Greenspring at Mount Snow.
The fire was reported at about 7:30 on the evening of December 31. Even as the first firefighters were arriving on the scene, dispatchers were reporting that witnesses saw fire engulfing the structure. With fears of the fire spreading to other condominiums in the same unit, or worse, to nearby units, firefighters raised the status of the fire to a second alarm, bringing in units from around southern Vermont.

Looking toward the front of the building

In addition to the West Dover Fire Department, Wilmington, East Dover, Wardsboro, Stratton Mountain, and Brattleboro responded to the scene. Units from a handful of other southern Vermont towns were dispatched to provide cover at stations that had equipment at the scene.
By the time firefighters arrived on the scene, all occupants of the unit were out of the building.
Wilmington assistant fire chief Richard Covey assumed command of the scene, and firefighters from the various towns worked flawlessly together.
According to West Dover Fire Chief Rich Werner, water supply at the large condominium complex isn’t a problem, thanks to a number of fire ponds with dry hydrants scattered around the area. Pumpers from East Dover and Wilmington were able to pump water to firefighters battling the blaze.

West Dover Ladder Truck

It took some time to get water to West Dover’s ladder truck, which was strategically positioned on a hill above the burning unit. Once the water was hooked up, firefighters were able to use the ladder’s aerial hose to knock down the fire from above.
Meanwhile, teams of firefighters attacked the fire from the ground, despite cramped quarters between the building and the nearby hillside.
It wasn’t long before ladder trucks arrived from Brattleboro and Stratton Mountain to join in fighting the fire from above. Brattleboro took up a position near the front of the building, and Stratton set up near the back of the building, and soon the fire, which had been burning brightly, had been knocked down and was under control.

View from atop an embankment behind the building. The roof is burning in this photo.

Werner says the condominium unit was destroyed. "The roof is gone, and a couple of the walls were severely damaged," he says. "There was a lot of smoke and water damage on the main floor and throughout the unit."
Miraculously, however, damage to the adjoining unit was relatively light. "The fire was contained to just the one unit," Werner says. "The unit next door got a little smoke damage."
The good news for the neighbors is a testament not only to the quick action of firefighters, but also to Greensprings’ construction methods. The condominiums were built with fire breaks and firewalls between units to halt the spread of fire. Werner says they worked. "That’s good quality construction," Werner says. "They did everything right, in fact, I think they did more than code required."


Firefighters notified fire marshals from the Vermont Department of Fire Safety about the incident even before the blaze was fully extinguished. The state police and DFS conducted their investigation on Wednesday, January 2, and determined that the fire started on the front porch near a trash receptacle and some trash bags. According to the report, the occupants placed ash from their fireplace in a trash bag and put it on the porch near the other refuse. "Ignition from the ash to surrounding combustible materials in the trash bag and surrounding area caused this fire." No injuries were reported in the blaze, but the family’s pet hamster died in the fire. Damage was estimated to be in excess of $300,000. The fire was ruled accidental and no charges are to be filed.

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