Fire claims Bristol home, one pet injured

BRISTOL — A Sunday afternoon blaze destroyed a home on Lower Notch Road in Bristol and required dozens of firefighters to extinguish. No one was injured, and firefighters were able to recover two family dogs from the blaze — one of which survived intense heat and flames by hiding underneath the porch.

Homeowner Greg West said he and his family were out of town at a Christmas gathering when the fire started.

Bristol Fire Department First Assistant Chief Brett LaRose said the dispatch received a call Dec. 29 at 3:08 p.m. that dark smoke could be seen rising from a home on 2083 Lower Notch Road, three miles south of Bristol village.

On their arrival, firefighters discovered the structure was 60 percent involved. LaRose, the incident commander, said he ordered that only defensive actions would be taken — no firefighters would enter the home.

“The heat was so intense, we couldn’t get near it,” LaRose said. “It was a total loss.”

Lower Notch Road is unpaved, and the driveway to the home was steep, making the scene difficult for trucks to reach.

Firefighters from New Haven, Monkton and Lincoln provided mutual aid, bringing the total number of personnel on scene to around 45. By 3:40 p.m., LaRose said, the conflagration was under control.

Fire officials notified the family of the fire by telephone. West rushed to the scene, where he discovered the family’s boxer/terrier, Max, alive but injured. There was no sign of their beagle, Bo. Both dogs had been tied up outside, but only Max had broken free.

Searching through the ruins of his home, West discovered Bo, miraculously unharmed, hiding under the porch of the structure.

“He was scared and didn’t want to come out from under there,” West said “He’d been there the entire time.”

LaRose said the ice and snow on top of the porch protected the dog from burns and smoke inhalation — a leading cause of fire-related deaths; it likely saved the dog’s life.

“The firefighters were surprised,” West said. “They said he could have drowned with all the water they poured on the fire.”

Max suffered burns to his retinas and struggles to see, West said, but is slowly recovering.

Greg West purchased the home in 2012 and lived there with his wife, Vicki, and 14-month-old son, Leo. He said the couple plans to rebuild the home. They are currently staying with West’s father in Bristol. West said on Tuesday that his wife’s sister was in the process of creating a web page for community members to donate to the family. The Independent will post the link with this story on our website when the West family web page is up and running.

Fire investigator Tony Porter, who is also an assistant chief with the Starksboro Fire Department, was brought in to determine the cause of the blaze.

On Tuesday, Porter said his investigation is ongoing, but it appears the blaze was accidental, and began around the woodstove and chimney area of the home. During the fire, the chimney toppled over onto the lawn.

“There wasn’t much left to look at,” Porter said.  

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Addison County Independent

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