EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

February 11, 2013

Blizzard blaze destroys house

Family escapes without injury, but loss immense


White-out conditions and fierce winds from the storm led to frozen hoses and ladders, which only made battling the blaze more problematic, fire Chief Scott Berkenbush said Saturday afternoon.

“It was fully involved when we got there,” Berkenbush said of the house. “It took hours to knock it down. It was up in the roof and with the wind and everything, it just traveled.”

From the outset, crews had to clear the 1/4-mile driveway of 2 feet of snow before they could even get to the house.

Then, the process of getting water to the house in the middle of the blizzard required some complex work. Pumps had to be used to extend hoses from hydrants on River Road and nearby Bridge Street to the scene, Berkenbush said.

“Three pumps were in line to get the water to the fire. One of them froze up and we had to take that out of the line and put another one in,” he said. “And everything froze up. All the hoses we had out, our ladders and everything were frozen.”

West Newbury called on the assistance of numerous area fire departments, including Groveland, Newburyport, Byfield, Newbury, Georgetown, Amesbury and Merrimac, and the chief and his team were still at the scene Saturday afternoon, more than 14 hours after the call came in. No firefighters or emergency personnel reported injuries at the scene, Berkenbush said.

Despite the outcome, Carolyn Renau had only praise for the efforts of the firefighters.

“They were unbelievable. They were here all night into the next day,” she said. “The outcome was not good, but I can’t thank them enough. They did all they could.”

Berkenbush said this isn’t the first fire he’s battled in a blizzard. He responded to a structure fire in Byfield during the Blizzard of 1978.

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