WHITINGHAM -- A three-alarm fire destroyed an elderly couple's home on Holbrook Road, Wednesday morning.
The owners, Ken and Viera Miller, and a friend staying with them, were awakened by smoke alarms at about 7 a.m., and were just barely able to escape the flames without injury.
Smoke could be seen several miles away as the fire consumed the home, a pickup truck parked outside and the family's car, which was inside the garage.
Whitingham Fire Chief Stanley Janovsky told the Reformer the home is considered "a total loss" and estimated the initial damages at more than $300,000.
What caused the fire is "undetermined" at this time, the fire chief said, and may not ever be known because of the extensive damage.
Janovsky said, however, that the fire isn't considered suspicious.
The first engine was on the scene within three minutes of the 911 call, but the fire had already broken through the roof of the single-story home and had spread to a deck area, he said.
The fire call was quickly increased to a second- then a third-alarm as rescue personnel from Halifax, Marlboro, Wilmington, West Dover and Heath and Colrain, Mass., rushed to the scene to help battle the six-foot flames.
"Their house was pretty remote, built into the side of a cliff, so we didn't have to worry about trees or other homes catching fire," he said. "But because the house was up a steep incline with nowhere to get water, it made
Janovsky said without water access near the home, firefighters had to attach roughly 4,000 feet of hose to use water from the North River in Jacksonville.
Members of the Vermont State Police helped close Route 112 so the firefighters could have access to the North River. Janovsky said the road was closed for about four hours and the fire was under control at about 11 a.m.
Heavy construction equipment from Corse Excavating was also called to the scene to move charred debris and help firefighters ensure nothing else was burning underneath, he said.
"A metal roof collapsed onto the structure and it wasn't clear if anything else was burning underneath so we wanted to make sure the scene was safe," Janovsky said.
The Millers and their house guest were taken to Deerfield Valley Health Center for a standard check-up.
The Red Cross was called to help the couple find a place to stay.
Josh Stilts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.