Geoff Hansen /Valley News Photo
Hartford Fire Chief Steven Locke, left, speaks with Pomfret-Teago Fire Chief Kevin Rice about where a Pomfret house fire started Friday.
POMFRET — Her neighbor was wiped out, but Candle Klampert somehow made it through Tropical Storm Irene without suffering too much damage. The White River flooded her front yard and washed away her sheep fence, but her two-story home was untouched.
Misfortune of a much crueler measure, however, would find Klampert after all.
A midmorning fire Friday destroyed her home and killed her four dogs and three cats.
All that had been spared by Irene was gone in minutes.
“Everything, everything was here,” Klampert said as she watched firefighters rip her roof apart.
Around 10 a.m., a neighbor on White River Lane, a dirt road that hugs the White River, saw signs of the fire and called authorities.
Hartford firefighters, called to help by their Pomfret counterparts, arrived first, but there was little they could do, Hartford Public Safety Director Steve Locke said. The fire had spread to both floors, and thick smoke made visibility poor.
“It had a head of steam on us,” Locke said. “We are a ways away, and it was going well on arrival. It was very heavily damaged.”
Trapped inside were a border collie named Akira, a Jack Russell terrier named Sugar, dachshunds named Prince and Princess, along with cats Blackie, Midnight and Blackie 2.
Authorities had little sense of what sparked the fire, Locke said, and struggled to find the animals’ remains in the debris.
There did not appear to be any working smoke detectors, Locke said.
“We never heard one,” said Locke, who was among the first to arrive on the scene.
The fire smoldered for more than two hours. Firefighters climbed onto the roof, ripping away sections of the ceiling, only to reveal hot spots. Charred insulation and boxes were strewn outside the home.
Klampert took in the scene quietly.
About 40 years ago, she said, she had driven her Realtor and then-husband a bit crazy. She was from California, and knew that she wanted to live near the water, but was a picky home buyer. As they drove down White River Lane, a narrow dirt road hard flanked by elm trees, Klampert knew the search was over.
“My husband told me this was the last place we’re looking at,” she said. “Before I even got to this (house), I fell in love with it. This was my dream. You should see it in the spring and summer — absolutely gorgeous.”
She had raised two children there. Her son Rahm won two U.S. Open snowboarding titles before becoming a trainer in Massachusetts. Daughter Vyasa was killed in a car accident in South Woodstock in 1988 when she was 17 years old.
Klampert found time in her life to visit Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Mexico, and decorated her home with mementos of her wanderings.
And she operated a small farm that, though she has downsized, still includes two sheep, one lamb, one horse, two peacocks, eight geese and several chickens.
Klampert had to get rid of her 30 sheep after Irene destroyed her fence, and a little private beach along the river, where Rahm first learned to swim, was destroyed. She had hoped to clear the debris this summer.
“I’m as poor as a church mouse,” she said. “I’m struggling to keep the place, but I love it so much.”
Klampert has long since taken a second job, as an elder caregiver, and left around 6:30 a.m. Friday to tend to a patient. A few hours later, a neighbor called with news of the fire. Klampert couldn’t help thinking that, had the fire broken out at the same time on a different morning, she might have been there to help prevent it from spreading.
Neighbors have offered her space in their home, but Klampert doesn’t know what she will do next. Friday morning, the future was overwhelmed by thoughts of the past.
“That room,” she said, motioning to a window were firefighters were rummaging through debris, “was both my daughter’s and son’s room.”
Mark Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.MORE IN Local & StateMan denies
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