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February 11, 2013

Blizzard blaze destroys house

Family escapes without injury, but loss immense

WEST NEWBURY — One day after a devastating fire ravaged their family home, all the Renaus could do yesterday was sift through the ice-encased, charred remains of the trappings of their lives, attempting to salvage whatever they could.

Their 11 River Road house — a sprawling, nine-room contemporary home on 5-plus acres overlooking the Merrimack River — went up in flames during the height of the blizzard late Friday night.

Anthony and Carolyn Renau and their two dogs escaped uninjured — but suffered immense loss in the intense fire that brought more than 30 firefighters from across the region to the scene and took hours to extinguish.

“The house is done,” Carolyn Renau said yesterday before touring the property with insurance adjusters. “One whole section of the house is absolutely obliterated.”

Renau said the fire is believed to have started from a wood stove insert in a fireplace on the first floor of the 4,700-square-foot home.

She said the family had been experiencing problems with their heating system and had technicians working on the problem in the last week or two. But as the blizzard struck, they were without a working heating system and turned to the wood stove insert, typically used primarily in conjunction with their heat, as their main source of warmth.

On Friday night, Carolyn Renau loaded the wood stove before heading off to bed. A couple small fan blower heaters bought a week or so before were circulating to spread the heat through the house.

About a half-hour later, around 11:45 p.m., Renau heard a noise coming from the wood stove and went to check.

“I saw the fire was just out of control in the insert,” she said.

Renau quickly scrambled to get her husband, who had recently undergone hip surgery, as well as Scout and Zoe, her Lab and golden retriever, out the door and call the fire department. The couple’s 25-year-old son, Tom, who lives with them, was out plowing and not home when the fire started.

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