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Friday, January 9, 2009

Atkinson barn destroyed, house heavily damaged Blaze spread quickly in high wind

From the Eagle-Tribune;

Atkinson barn destroyed, house heavily damaged Blaze spread quickly in high wind
By Terry Date

ATKINSON — A Stage Road couple is homeless after fire erupted in their attached barn and spread to their two-story Colonial house yesterday.

Firefighters arriving at the home of Richard and Priscilla Pope about 4 p.m., saw flames shooting out the roof and front of the barn, Atkinson fire Capt. John Rockwell said.

Richard Pope was home alone when the fire broke out, but he escaped unharmed.

The barn burned to the ground. Firefighters saved the two-story, clapboard house from destruction, battling flames in a cold wind. Still, the house had significant fire damage in the rear and water and smoke damage throughout, leaving it uninhabitable, Rockwell said.

Firefighters from Plaistow, Danville and Hampstead assisted.

Son Brian Pope, who lives next door, said he saw a passer-by stop and pound on the front door, trying to alert the occupants to the fire. He and a woman escorted his father out of the house.

About 5 p.m., Richard Pope, 65, stood in his home's driveway as a thick cloud of choking smoke poured from what remained of the barn.

The barn was empty and had no electrical power, leaving the homeowner dumbfounded as to how the fire started.

"Not a clue, zero," Pope said.

The fire spread swiftly, he said.

"The wind was going about 90 mph and the fire took off like a rocket," Pope said.

When he left his house, Pope left the front door open so the family's cat could get out. No one at the scene knew whether the cat had escaped.

Pope, a retired machinist, and his wife had lived in the house for about 30 years, he said.

Brian Pope said his father and mother may stay with him or with a neighbor down the street.

About 6:15 p.m., firefighters had finished cutting into the home's walls and ceilings to root out lingering hot spots.

Rockwell expected crews would remain on the scene for at least another hour.

The fire is under investigation. Rockwell said a fire insurance inspector would have to determine if the home was a complete loss.

The Rev. Paul Dionne of Atkinson Congregational Church spoke with Richard Pope at the scene.

Dionne, the chaplain for the Atkinson Police Department, said he and others will do whatever they can to help the couple through the ordeal.

The house, built around 1900, was assessed at $219,000, according to Atkinson property records.

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