A firefighter uses a ladder to reach the third floor.
READSBORO, Vt. — The historic Readsboro Inn was spared from catastrophe in the wee hours of Tuesday when a quick thinking tenant and teams of firefighters were able to snuff out a pellet stove fire on its top floor.
"The fire blew through the side of the building, it ran up the roof rafters and down the other side and through the whole attic," said Fire Chief Adam Codogni.
The fire was seen before 2:30 a.m. when a guest went outside to have a cigarette and noticed smoke coming through top of the three-story building. A tenant grabbed an extinguisher and was able to contain the stove blaze, but the fire had worked its way behind the walls and up into the attic.
BJ Gamache, who has an apartment in the building, said later that it was a guest at the inn who went outside around 2 and saw the smoke, then began banging on apartment doors to wake everyone.
Gamache said he called 911 and the owners, then grabbed fire extinguishers.
"So I climbed out the window on the third floor onto a ladder that is attached to the building and started spraying the fire flames with the fire extinguishers from outside," he wrote on a Facebook post on the story. "I used five of them to get flames out that I could see before the Fire Department made it here. I had to keep running downstairs to grab more of them."
The guest remained with him to help out while Gamache battled the blaze.
"To be honest it all happened so fast and the only thing I was thinking was not letting Marcia [Evans] and Vince [Guest], the owners, lose their building," he said. "My place to live and my job."
Codogni and the first crew of firefighters arrived with minutes and the decision was made to start pulling down the interior walls to get to the fire.
"We were lucky to have a good crew tonight just to get that initial attack," the chief said. "We had interior firefighters to get up there and hit it.
"If it was really roaring, we would have been in big trouble."
A second alarm was called at 2:30 a.m. and mutual aid had begun to pour in from the surrounding communities: Monroe, Halifax, Stamford and Whitingham arrived, as well as Massachusetts companies from Charlemont, Clarksburg, Colrain, Heath and Rowe. North Adams sent its ladder truck and North Adams Ambulance Service sent an ambulance and its rehab trailer.
The conditions were poor as snow had been falling for a couple hours by the time the fire was reported and the roads to the mountain town were getting slick. The Florida Fire Department had also tried to send a truck but it reportedly went off the road.
The inn dates back to the late 19th century and hosted a number of businesses until being turned into an inn and popular restaurant in the 1930s. The original structure is connected to a much larger later building that holds a tavern. The property is currently on the market and is listed as having four apartments and seven inn rooms.
Not all the rooms were occupied and everyone was safely evacuated.
It took about two hours to contain the fire. The third floor was damaged by fire and the efforts to contain it and the second floor has some water damage. The first floor, which has the restaurant, appeared to have escaped any damage.
Owner Marcia Evans said there was no one in the apartment with the pellet stove. The stoves have been running because of the cold and prior problems with pipes freezing.
"The bar is OK. I don't know if there'll be power to the restaurant but I'm planning to go forward with it," she said.
Efforts were being made to get the power back on to the newer builder and it was believed at least the restaurant in the inn could be powered up. Green Mountain Power had disconnected the electricity.
The inn is a landmark on the town's main street, which is also Route 100. In addition to the attached structure, there's a house directly across a small avenue and a house behind it.
"Anything to do with this building could turn out bad, especially with the amount of people living in it," Codogni said, adding he was thankful for the turnout by mutual aid. "This is a tough night to get everybody together."
It was almost 4:30 when the scene began to clear.
"I love the Readsboro Fire Department, they were right on it," she said. "Right on it."
Updated on March 13 to clarify who first reacted to the fire.
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