Amherst and Area Fire Departments Fight Farmhouse Fire
Photo by Nate Arnold AFD Engine 2, a 75 ft. Quint, is backed into the fire scene to maximize aerial reach.
Photo by Nate Arnold
Photo by Nate Arnold
AMHERST, MA - A mid-afternoon fire gutted the rear additions and garage of an 1800’s era farmhouse on the south side of this Hampshire County college town on Saturday, January 21st.
The Amherst Fire Department has, for generations, been dealing with a chronic understaffing issue that has no end in sight. No fewer than three four year residential universities call Amherst home, which includes the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts system. During the school year, the town’s population balloons to well over 50,000 people. The AFD is tasked with protecting this small city’s worth of people with a paltry two firehouses and no more than 9 firefighters on duty at any given point in time.
It was exactly 9 overworked firefighters who pulled onto South East Street to find heavy smoke and fire venting from this two-story farmhouse with multiple single-story additions on the 'Charlie' side, and neighbors stating that one of the residents might still be inside the building which had a propane fired heating system who’s external tanks were being impinged upon by fire.
The on duty crew made the best of a bad situation while they waited for mutual aid and off duty personnel to respond, managing to secure a water supply, stretch attack lines and place two rear-mount aerials in service while also attempting to complete a primary search of the dwelling for the reported missing occupant.
By the time mutual aid crews arrived, conditions inside had deteriorated to the point that South East St. command had to remove crews from the building and switch to a defensive attack to knock down the bulk of the fire with large caliber hand lines. Once the main body of fire was knocked down, members re-entered the building to chase hot spots and overhaul what was left of the rear additions.
No civilians were injured in the fire and the reported missing occupant was found to have left the property with friends, leaving their vehicle in the driveway, before the fire started. The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the AFD, APD and the Office of the State Fire Marshal.