Thursday, December 27, 2012


News to Know December FIRE

Sent by Corinne Stridsberg and also posted at
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This News to Know is to share information regarding the devastating fire in Berlin on 12/26/12.   Sadly, the Towne family home and attached barn was leveled in a blaze that started in the barn and quickly spread.  Berlin fire fighters and 10 other area departments all fought the blaze and some were still on scene early this morning.  Red Cross and the Berlin Ladies Auxiliary provided food to those on scene and Red Cross also provided additional support for the family.  Friends, neighbors and especially their network of horse people are all rallying to support the Towne family.   There are many people who aren't close friends but are all asking "what can we do to help?"
Towne-Ayr Farm does have a facebook page.
If you have any photos of the Towne family that you can scan for them or otherwise share with them they would appreciate it!
The Town of Berlin is accepting donations for the Towne family.  Berlin Town Office Attn: Jeff Schulz, 108 Shed Road, Berlin, VT  05602 802-223-4405  Checks can be made payable directly to the Towne family.
   Erin Longworth Performance Horses (ELPH) is saddened to learn about the fire at the Towne Ayr Farm on Wednesday night. Everyone is safe and sound including the animals but they need help.
   Please read the article below and share with everyone!
TOWNE AYR FARM: Wednesday Night Fire Destroyed Home and Hay Barn in Berlin, VT. Assistance is needed from the Horse Community.
   I have just gotten off the phone with Rita and Bethany. Sad, exhausted and waiting for various agencies to arrive. Clothing sizes: Ladies 10 and medium Ladies 14 and large. Men’s size xxl tall. They need everything folks!! Donations can be mailed to: 523 3 Mile Bridge Road, Berlin, VT 05602 or 802-272-8379 or Loretta Wilson at 802-522-6777 Please contact Martha Heavesides-Linnebur or Loretta before delivering anything. The Towne family is overwhelmed at the moment and while we all mean well we could easily add to the stress of this horrific event. Hay storage is limited so we need to schedule deliveries accordingly.
   From Martha Heavisides-Linnebur
Pub 12/27/12 Times Argus by David Taube
   BERLIN — A fire destroyed a hay barn four and a half stories tall and a neighboring historic farmhouse late Wednesday on Three Mile Bridge Road.
   Brad Towne, who lived there with his family, was still wearing a sweater Thursday morning that he had received for Christmas, one of the few items the fire did not destroy.
   The barn had 1,500 large bales of hay, which was not as much as the 20,000 the barn sometimes had held. The massive fire tore through the structure, bringing the sides to the ground within a few hours.
   Motorists along Interstate 89 could see the flames, and smoke and ashes billowed twice as high as an old maple tree next to the home.
   The home was rebuilt in the 1880s after a fire destroyed the original structure. The adjacent barn had remained standing from that first blaze, though. At one point, the cellar of the barn was connected to the summer portion of the home.
   “As kids, we had a great time playing hide and seek,” Towne recalled on Thursday.
   Towne’s grandfather acquired the property in the 1920s, and his mother, Ruth Towne, who served in the Vermont Legislature for 26 years and died in 2007, had also lived in the home.
   Brad Towne’s wife, Rita, was in the home when the barn fire began, but a passing motorist stopped and alerted her to the blaze.
   She said she went back into the home to call 911 from a landline because that was the quickest way to reach firefighters. Her husband, who is chairman of the Berlin Select Board, was at a meeting.
   The passerby then told her to leave as the barn quickly was consumed by flames, Rita Towne said late Wednesday.
   The fire began from a piece of farm equipment, and the cause was not suspicious, state investigators determined.
   Berlin Fire Chief Miles Silk Jr. said a skid steer, similar to a Bobcat used by cities for plowing sidewalks, presumably malfunctioned inside the barn.
   The fire was called in to a Montpelier dispatcher around 8:40 p.m.; initially it was believed there were horses inside the barn.
   Fortunately, the horses were in a nearby barn that serves as a stable and arena and that was unaffected by the fire, Rita Towne said.
   Many neighbors helped form a line to guide the 12 horses and a pony into a fenced area farther away from the fire, but several animals panicked. Rita Towne said they recognized her voice and eventually responded, but one knocked into a volunteer.
   Silk, the fire chief, said the barn was almost on the ground when East Montpelier reached the scene — a town department closer to the property than Berlin’s fire department.
   Brad Towne owns and rents out a house across the road, and he recalled Thursday that he didn’t realize the fire was at his own home until he saw the blaze.
   Around 10:20 p.m., flames from the back of the house rose from the ground as high as the remaining portion of the two-story home. An interior wall quickly dropped.
   The historic home had three chimneys, all of which fell to the ground. The home had been divided into two living quarters because, in the past, families would cook in one section of the home to avoid the additional heat generated from cooking during the summer, Brad Towne said.
   Berlin firefighters and 10 other area fire departments responded. The fire became under control around 2:30 or 3 a.m. Thursday, and as firefighters prepared to leave, a 6- or 7-foot flame re-emerged from a house cellar, said Silk. Fire crews cleared the scene at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday.
   The couple spent the night in a small heated room next to the stable where saddles go.
   A house cat named Jack was injured in the fire and was being treated by a veterinarian Thursday. Rita Towne said late Wednesday that she had not seen the two barn cats.
   The couple’s daughter, Bethany, 20, was having Christmas dinner with her boyfriend and his family at the time of the fire. The couple’s son, Nathan, 23, was at a friend’s house.
   Others have offered help, from providing hay to living quarters. The family has a relative nearby.
   The home and barn were insured.
   Brad Towne said they could rebuild.
(link includes photos)
WCAX-TV by Alexei Rubenstein 
   BERLIN, Vt. - A charred, smoking foundation is all that's left of the Towne family farm. It was about 8:40 p.m. Wednesday when a neighbor on Three Mile Bridge Road spotted flames and banged on the door of the attached two-story house.
   "When she came to the door she says, 'I think your barn is on fire.' And when I looked-- yeah, that's a fire," Rita Towne said. "Running up to the house to get to the landline, I was trying to run as fast as I could and I felt like I was running in slow motion, that was the worst part."
   In the few minutes it took to call 911 and her husband, the fire consumed the barn, moving toward the house. For Rita, protecting her dozen horses in a separate, adjacent barn was top priority.
   "On the way out I started grabbing pictures and then when I saw the explosion I thought the side of the arena was burning, I dropped the pictures for some reason, I didn't hang on to them, I threw them down and ran. I said I got to get to the barn," she said.
   Meanwhile, Brad Towne who was away chairing a town select board meeting, raced home.
   "The barn was pretty much skeleton remains and it was already going into the house," he said. "So, the fire departments were here-- it was just dry wood and it went."
   His grandfather bought the now 150-year-old farm back in the 1920s, when it was operated as a dairy. Former state legislator Ruth Towne and her husband raised Brad and his brother in the rambling farm house. And Brad and his wife raised their two kids there.
   "So, we lost all of my mother's stuff and what not... nobody got hurt," Brad said.
   Neighbors dropped by Thursday to deliver supplies and words of encouragement.
   Fire investigators confirmed a skid steer sparked the blaze.
   "I don't know if it was a short in the skid steer or what it was," Brad said. "We've had the skid steer in the barn before."
   The horses, although spooked, are OK.
   "They're trying to get back to a routine of eating and drinking a little water, that's what they wanna do is have a routine, so we're just waiting to see what our routine's gonna be," Rita said.
   The family will stay with relatives in the neighborhood until they figure out their next move. The assessed damage is estimated at over $200,000. But it's the loss of family memories that looms large.
   "The house was in the family... but we move on," Brad said.
   The Towne family's cat, Jack, was singed in the fire, but is reportedly doing OK.
More photos:!/media/set/?set=a.175672049223457.6101.115562575234405&type=1
Worth noting about this corner of Berlin - Junction Road becomes Three Mile Bridge Road at the Three Mile Bridge and then at the corner of Jones Brook Road where the town line is the road becomes Moretown's River Road.  Jones Brook Road includes sections of Berlin and Moretown.

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