CUMBERLAND – A Diamond Hill Road couple just barely escaped a fast-moving fire in their home Monday night that sadly claimed the lives of their two dogs and a cat, according to firefighters.
David and Marianne Alger had been asleep in the upper level of their two-story home just before 11:15 p.m. when they woke to find the attached downstairs family room on fire, North Cumberland Fire Chief Brian Jackvony said Tuesday.
There were two smoke detectors in the 3397 Diamond Hill Road home, but the couple did not know what had awakened them, the chief added. They encountered the fire downstairs as the attempted to flee the upper level and then tried a window as a possible exit,” Jackvony said.
“It was frozen shut, so they knew they had to make it out through the downstairs,” he said. The couple was able to get out without injury despite the growing fire, according to Jackvony.
“It was a close call,” he said.
Once outside, the couple heard what they later described as the “sound of a train coming through,” as the flames roared through the building.
Jackvony said the fire department received a call from the couple reporting the fire as well as from neighbors. The department’s first unit on the scene found the attached garage and family room fully involved and flames already burning about a quarter of the main home nearest the family room.
The home was located down a long dirt road from Diamond Hill Road, and that made access to the structure difficult given the 11 degree temperatures upon firefighters’ arrival and the resulting icing from the firefighting, according to Jackvony. The cold only worsened while the firefighting effort continued into Tuesday, with a low of 7 degrees being reported, he noted.
A hydrant was available on Diamond Hill Road but the water supply was insufficient for the fire already burning in the home, and Cumberland’s responding departments called upon the Woonsocket, North Attleboro, and Lincoln fire departments to set up additional lines to feed the firefighting efforts, according to Jackvony.
“Once we got the secondary resources we were able to get the fire knocked down,” Jackvony said. Firefighting units from Central Falls, Quinnville in Lincoln, and Wrentham provided station coverage, he said. Aside from the loss of the family’s pets, no one was injured in the incident, Jackvony said. The Providence Canteen truck did provide the rehabbing firefighters with warm drinks to fend off the cold, he added.
The home was a total loss, suffering extensive fire damage with the roof and main floor of the main building collapsing into the basement, Jackvony said. After an inspection on Tuesday, the town’s building official “ordered it demolished as an unsafe structure,” he said. The remaining portion of the home was expected to be razed today, according to Jackvony.
The Algers have three grown children and were reported to be staying with family members after the fire.
The blaze remains under investigation by state and local fire marshals due to the heavy damage to the structure, but is believed to have been accidental and possibly related to a wood stove in the family room, Jackvony said.
“The chimney has collapsed, but the information we received from residents and neighbors was that the fire appeared to be centered in the family room,” he said. The family was connected to the main home without doors so the fire is believed to have spread rapidly from that area into the main section of the home.
Although losing their home and most of their belongings in the fire, Jackvony said the Algers were fortunate to have awakened when they did.
“As tragic as it is, you need to keep a focus on the fact they were both able to escape. It was a very close call,” he said.