By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW — Mario De Nicola had just driven more than an hour to work in Randolph, Mass., when he got the bad news.
His house was on fire.
De Nicola’s Cape-style home at 108 Old County Road was heavily damaged by a three-alarm fire that broke out at 8:30 a.m. yesterday.
De Nicola’s fiancee and father, along with his two dogs and lizards, were able to safely escape the blaze without injury.
“It’s just something you can never imagine,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
While firefighters were working to control the fire, the family watched from a neighbor’s home across the street.
De Nicola had owned the house since 1986. He said he does have homeowner’s insurance.
“I don’t know what I can say,” De Nicola said. “I’m happy everyone was able to get out safely.”
Fire Chief John McArdle said the fire was caused by someone dumping ashes from a woodstove close to a wood pile. The wood was piled under the home’s deck.
“Unfortunately, this time of year, something like this can happen,” he said. “It’s accidental. Someone gets distracted for a moment and then the wind kicks up.”
Then the fire began to spread.
“By the time we got there, the fire was completely burning through the back of the house,” McArdle said.
He said it was unclear if the house could be salvaged, but the right side of the two-story home was badly damaged.
“The garage, both bedrooms and the attic was pretty badly burned,” he said. “They had heavy smoke and water damage as well. I’m not sure what the damage is on the other side of the home.”
McArdle said gaining access to the home was firefighters’ biggest issue.
Firefighters had to cut down a portion of a tree so they could get their ladder truck to the roof.
“Just a lot of hard work to gain access to the attic and the other areas where the fire had spread to,” McArdle said. “There was a lot of memorabilia stacked up in the attic and the garage, so it was difficult to move around.”
McArdle declared the fire under control at 10:55 a.m..
“There was so much material in the house and, especially with the wind we had, small hot spots can rekindle easily,” he said. “I wanted to be absolutely certain before I said it was under control.”
McArdle said people need to be cautious about where they discard their ashes.
“It should be disposed into a non-combustible container,” he said. “People just need to be careful.”
The Red Cross disaster action team was on the scene, providing food, shoes and clothes. They provided housing for De Nicola and his family last night.
In addition to Plaistow, firefighters from Atkinson, Kingston, Newton, Hampstead and Danville responded to the fire.
“We got a great response from our neighboring towns,” McArdle said. “We never lost water; that’s a good thing.”
The house is valued at $136,700, according to town assessing records.