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Vt. firefighters fight 3 blazes, suspect lightning

By Lisa Rathke
Associated Press / May 29, 2012
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BARRE, Vt.—Fire broke out in three houses in Barre within an hour Tuesday morning after severe thunderstorms rolled through the state. Lightning strikes are suspected, but the exact cause of each fire hasn't been determined.

Sixteen fire departments from central Vermont helped battle the blazes in hot, humid weather. One firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion; no one else was hurt.

"The guys are just whipped," said Deputy Fire Chief Joe Aldsworth as he took a break from the worst of the three fires that charred the back of a two-family farmhouse on Allen Street on a hill on the outskirts of the city. "There's just so much fire here."

The older home, which housed a family of six and a family of two, would likely be a total loss, Aldsworth said.

About a half hour later, firefighters got a call about a blaze at a home in another section of the city off Route 302.

Erika Facey was at work at the Northfield Savings Bank and her husband was on his way to get an oil change when they learned that their home had been struck by lightning.

Erika Facey held their small dog as the couple watched firefighters battle the blaze.

The dog and a cat were rescued from the house, but a second cat was still missing.

A third fire was reported about a half hour after that on nearby Waterman Street. The fire was electrical only and had the least damage, Aldsworth said.

House fires sparked by lightning tend to smolder at first. In one of the Barre fires, the residents lost their electricity and smelled smoke but didn't report it until somebody saw smoke coming from the home about an hour later, said Barre Fire Chief Tim Bombardier.

Lightning also sparked a fire in Shelburne on Tuesday morning. The home owner reported the blaze, and it was extinguished quickly. More severe thunderstorms were expected to hit the state Tuesday afternoon.

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