Blaze guts historic home
No injuries reported in early morning fire
PORTLAND — A stubborn early-morning fire gutted a historic house being restored by a woman who had expected to move in shortly.
The house, located on the former Murphy property off Murphy Road, was reduced to two badly fire-scarred exterior walls and a forelorn chimney in a blaze reported to officials at 5:10 a.m.
No one was home at the time, and no was injured in the prolonged battle by firefighters to quell the flames, Fire Chief Robert A. Shea said.
The house, built in 1915 according to town records, is located nearly 1,000 feet down a steep dirt driveway. The isolated location hampered efforts to control the flames, officials said.
There is no hydrant service in the area of Murphy Road, which parallels a portion of Route 6 just east of the intersection with Middle Haddam Road.
Consequently, a raft of area fire departments including units from Marlborough, Glastonbury, East Hampton, East Haddam, Haddam and Westfield descended on the fire scene. They did so to provide water and manpower
as needed to help buttress Portland and Middletown firefighters who were battling the flames and to cover Portland stations in the event of another incident elsewhere in town.
Then an oil tank in an adjacent garage that fed heating oil into the furnace in the basement of the house began to leak. It spewed oil that fed the flames and enveloped the fire scene in thick black smoke.
Firefighters crawling on their hands and knees scoured the interior of the garage in an effort to find — and stem — the leak, Shea said.
The property was a part of a complex owned by the Murphy family. Most recently, Joseph Murphy lived in the house. But he died in July 2015, and shortly after that the home went into foreclosure, according to town land records.
December, the house was bought by a Middletown woman who set about renovating the house.
First Selectwoman Susan S. Bransfield, who met the homeowner at the fire scene Thursday morning, said the woman was “devastated” by her loss.
“She had put a lot of effort into that house,” Bransfield said.
“She had been working ceaselessly to clear it out and make into a new home,” Shea said as he watched a mechanical excavator lift still-smoldering debris from the basement of the ruined house.
The initial 911 call came from a neighbor who reported seeing “a large volume of fire,” although was uncertain what was burning.
“So we knew what we were going to face when we got here,” Shea said.
He pushed engines to the edge of the fire scene to establish a perimeter to keep the fire from spreading. But immediately Shea knew “We were going to needing a lot of water.”
So rang a second alarm, which triggered a Level II response from area departments to send their tankers to feed water to the scene. The sustained effort caused a drop in residential water pressure in portions of the town.
“Our initial response was limited, but we had a good group here” who checked the fire from spreading.
“They did a nice job,” Shea said.
“And, as you can see, we have bits and pieces from every department here,” Shea said in the early afternoon.
A house on the former Murphy property off Murphy Road in Portland was decimated in a blaze Thursday morning.
No one was home at the time and no one was injured, Fire Chief Robert A. Shea said.