WILLIAMSTOWN — An extended family is homeless after a Sunday night fire gutted their Hebert Road farmhouse and an excavator was used to level what little was left.
The home was owned by Edward and Ruby Fullard, and occupied by the Fullards, two of their middle-aged children and three grandchildren.
Williamstown Fire Chief William Graham said the Fullards and at least two of their teenage grandchildren were home at the time and escaped the building after one of them noticed “black smoke” coming from a bedroom. No one was injured, he said.
According to Graham, the fire was called in shortly before 9:30 p.m. and the two-and-a-half-story wood-framed farmhouse was “half-involved” when firefighters arrived on the scene.
Graham said flames already burned through a section of roof at the time and within 30 minutes had spread throughout the entire structure.
“It did a lot of damage very quickly,” he said of the fire.
Graham said saving the structure was never a realistic option given how quickly the fire spread.
“It consumed the whole house,” he said of a fire that occupied nearly 50 firefighters from nine area departments through the night and into the early morning hours.
Though Graham said it wouldn’t have changed the ultimate outcome, he acknowledged efforts to extinguish the blaze were hampered by a decision to avoid using fire hydrants and instead rely on tankers to shuttle water to the scene.
“That was a struggle for the first couple of hours,” he said.
When Graham made that decision he said it was clear the house was beyond saving and there was no sense in stressing the temporary patch to a water main that burst on nearby Construction Hill Road over the weekend and was scheduled to be repaired on Monday.
The fire department posted news of the water main break on its Facebook page Saturday evening, noting there would be low pressure through the weekend and the fire department would only use hydrants “if necessary” pending Monday’s scheduled repair.
Had Sunday night’s fire spread less quickly, Graham said he might have made a different decision. While using the hydrants would have made it easier to fight the fire, he noted, they would not have saved the Fullards’ home.
“There was no saving it,” he said.
Graham said Williamstown firefighters were joined on the scene by volunteers from Northfield, Barre Town, Berlin, Brookfield, East Randolph, Chelsea, Roxbury and Washington. Those departments, he said, all sent tankers that were used to haul water to fight the fire. That battle, he said, didn’t end until after the excavator arrived early Monday morning to deal with the still-smoldering shell of the old farmhouse.
“We had to rip the whole house down to fully extinguish it,” he said.
Graham said state fire investigators were called to the scene, and, given the extent of the damage, were uncertain whether they would be able to pinpoint the cause and origin of the fire.
“At this time it’s still under investigation,” he said.
A disaster action team from the American Red Cross responded to the scene and provided the family with initial assistance and will follow up to see how it can help with the recovery process.