Blaze guts his­toric home

No in­juries re­ported in early morn­ing fire

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeff Mill

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.

Shea agreed.

“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.

Jeff Mill / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

A house on the for­mer Mur­phy prop­erty off Mur­phy Road in Port­land was dec­i­mated in a blaze Thurs­day morn­ing.

Jeff Mill / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

No one was home at the time and no one was in­jured, Fire Chief Robert A. Shea said.

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