EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 15, 2014

Woodstove ashes blamed for Derry fire

Neighbor arrested after he blocks ambulance in driveway

By Jo-Anne MacKenzie

---- — DERRY — Fire officials are blaming improper disposal of woodstove ashes for a fire on Beacon Hill Road Thursday evening.

Firefighters were called to 23 Beacon Hill Road just before 6 p.m. Derry police were the first to arrive and saw flames on the right side of the single-family home. They safely evacuated the adult woman and three children from the home before Derry and Windham firefighters arrived.

The fire engulfed wooden steps, siding and extended into the basement, according to Battalion Chief Jack Webb.

Smoke was rapidly filling the house, he said.

The fire started on the exterior wooden steps, Webb said, from wood ashes that had not been disposed of properly.

He reminds residents that ashes should be in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid, then placed well away from any structure.

Firefighters had to remove the outside steps, part of an exterior wooden door, sections of siding, and extinguish a small fire that extended through the exterior wall and into the basement.

The house was ventilated and was safe for occupation later, Webb said.

He credited the automatic aid agreement with Windham for a quick response. A Windham engine was sent on the initial alarm and arrived at the scene shortly after Derry did.

Had the fire burned for another two minutes, Webb said, “it would have progressed into a fully involved basement fire.”

At the same time firefighters were working to save the home at 23 Beacon Hill Road, a resident of 12 Beacon Hill Road, directly across from the fire, returned home and found a Derry ambulance in his driveway.

Robert Lebel, 62, became irate, gestured angrily and parked his car directly behind the ambulance, blocking it in, Webb said.

After a fire officer and a police officer asked Lebel to move his car so the ambulance could get out, he refused, according to Derry Police Capt. Vern Thomas.

Lebel started cursing at the officers. He also spat “a large amount of phlegm” onto the ambulance’s rear window, Webb said.

Lebel was taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, Thomas said. He was later released on a summons and is scheduled to be arraigned in 10th Circuit Court in Derry March 27.

No one was injured at the fire scene, which was declared under control at 6:20 p.m.