EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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July 9, 2014

Mystery fire destroys beloved farmhouse

Family and neighbors saddened, look for answers

GROVELAND — The 54-year-old house at Hank's Farm is gone — saddening neighbors and the family that lived on the property for generations.

The fire which destroyed the old building, a favorite spot of people from that part of town, has also left a mystery in its wake.

Firefighters from Groveland and neighboring communities rushed to the property at 342 Center St. about 2 a.m. Saturday, after reports of smoke there. They saved the building from burning. The fire caused mostly smoke damage, which members of the late Hank Subatch's family said could have been repaired.

But flames broke out again early Sunday morning and were noticed by a passerby at 4:15 a.m. By the time firefighters got to the house this time, the fire had become too strong to knock down. It destroyed the building.

That's where the mystery comes in.

Richard Subatch, 60, son of the late Hank and Alma Subatch, said he believes the fire reignited after firefighters thought they had it completely extinguished from the first outbreak of flames on Saturday.

Subatch lives next door to the farmhouse. Yesterday, he praised firefighters for putting out the original fire, but said they should have opened up walls near the origin point of the blaze to ventilate the area and make sure there were no more flames.

But Jennifer Mieth, spokeswoman for the state Fire Marshal's Office which had investigators on the scene after the building was destroyed, said there were two separate fires at the building.

"We have active investigations into them,'' she said yesterday, adding that no evidence has been collected showing that the original fire reignited. "No cause has been determined yet.''

Meanwhile, with no insurance on the old farmhouse, the Subatches have lost the building that was the centerpiece of their family for several decades — and and the keepsakes it contained.

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