EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 29, 2013

Fire ravages Rockport home

No injuries reported, family dog found safe

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — A fast-moving fire ate away the top section of a Hunters Court house Friday night, but there were no reports of injury to any people nor to a family dog that was initially feared trapped inside the inferno.

Rockport firefighters first responded to a call of a house fire “with flames showing” at around 5:15 p.m., and first responders reported the house at One Hunters Court as “fully involved.”

Rockport Fire Chief James Doyle said at the scene that it was too early to tell what caused the fire, or just how extensively the house was damaged.

“We won’t know until we get in there (for investigation,” he said.

The top half of the two-story, single-family house, however, appeared to be hit hardest near the chimney, while part of the small garage next to the house was also damaged by the blaze.

Three Rockport fire engines and about a dozen firefighters responded to the scene, along with at least nine crew from Gloucester while neighboring Essex provided mutual-aid station coverage.

Once on the scene, firefighters began clearing the way with chainsaws and axes.

Intersections at Marshall and High Streets were briefly closed during the blaze.

At the scene, there was initially some concern that the dog— named Wally — did not make it out, but the canine persevered just fine and was carried safely away from the scene, according to George Hobbs, the homeowner.

“Everyone’s out, the dog’s out,” Hobbs said while making phone calls outside the house Friday night. Hobbs — a former volunteer Rockport firefighter himself — said the house is home to his three sons.

Hobbs’ granddaughter, 15-year-old Amber Hobbs, said she was unsure what caused the fire and noted that there was no one apparently home at the time. She said there is a wood stove in the house that the family members use for heat.

The home sits on about a quarter acre of land and was built in 1971, according to assessment records.

At the start, flames could be seen from up to 1 1/2 miles away.

“I looked up and saw the giant ball of fire,” said onlooker Paul Murphy, a town selectman. Others who also saw the flames rushed to the scene, and some were snapping pictures while Hobbs spoke with firefighters and neighbors.

“You come outside and just see flames shooting up,” said neighbor Amy Kamm. “It was terrifying,” neighbor Amy Kamm said.

Firefighters had the flames knocked down by 6 p.m., but crews remained on the scene for monitoring and cleanup well into the night.

Radio transmissions later Friday night indicated that Hobbs saw smoke coming out of the eaves house again, shortly after 7:30 p.m.