Guest house burns after explosion

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SOUTH LONDONDERRY — A property manager narrowly avoided injury Thursday when a guest house exploded and burned on Winhall Hollow Road.

Doug Stevens was in the front yard of the house just moments before it exploded. He had just crossed the road to the property's sugarhouse about 150 feet away when it went up.

"Boom! I looked over and saw the roof lift right off and settle back down," Stevens said. "There were things flying everywhere."

Stevens said he wasn't hit by any flying debris and wasn't hurt, but was shaken.

"A couple of minutes earlier and it would have been a different story," Stevens said.

The blast debris was 25 feet out from the front of the house and 50 feet in the back, said South Londonderry Fire Chief Jeff Duda.

Stevens said he called 911 and watched as flames engulfed the home as he waited for firefighters.

The first crews on the scene found an inferno that prevented them from pulling up in front of the house as the road was too close to the flames.

Soon, an estimated 60 firefighters from 11 departments were on scene fighting the fire from all sides. Duda said tanker trucks from three other departments were toned out but turned around when the arriving crews found a fire hydrant on scene preventing the need to shuttle water to fight the fire.

Duda said he saw the column of smoke from 3 miles away and he struck a third alarm to call in additional manpower, engines and tankers.

Stevens said the home was a guest home on the property owned by Tim Dugan of Chicago. The property, which the owners called West River Farm, also had a main home, a sugarhouse, a pond, barn and horse riding area scattered among farmland.

Nobody was living in the guest house that burned, nor had anybody been inside or done any work on the building, Stevens said. He couldn't think of anything that would have caused the explosion.

"It hasn't been used in several years," Stevens said. "About 10 years ago different owners put a lot of money into it."

Stevens said the Dugans were at the property last weekend but only come occasionally.

Duda said they didn't find anything suspicious about the fire, but because there was no obvious cause, he called for a Vermont State Police fire investigator, who had not released a report by press time.

Firefighters from South Londonderry, Londonderry, Stratton, Winhall, Manchester, Peru, Jamaica, Wardsborough, Windham, East Dover and Ludlow responded. Tankers from Newfane, Mount Holly and Proctorsville were turned around. Londonderry Ambulance stood by at the scene.

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.




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