Overloaded plug torches North Stamford home

A fire caused by an overloaded electrical plug tore through a large home in North Stamford early Wednesday, gutting nearly the entire structure.

Firefighters were called to 25 Bittersweet Lane at 12:18 a.m. after neighbors heard explosions and saw a fireball engulfing the rear of the two and one-half level brick façade home, Stamford Fire Lt. Sean Daly said.

“When we got here there was a wall of fire back here,” Daly said pointing to the rear of the 2,600-square-foot home that opens into a large pond. “There was nothing but fire.”

The first firefighters got to the home at 12:33 a.m. and spent the next two hours and 45 minutes bringing the fire under control, Chief Fire Marshall Charles Spaulding said.

Spaulding said the homeowners were saved by the family retriever.

Spaulding said that before homeowner Jeff Gray went to bed Tuesday night, he did something he ordinarily didn’t do. Usually, he puts up a gate that keeps one of his three dogs –the retriever- from getting up to the master bedroom and sleeping on the bed.

For some reason, and he couldn’t put his finger on it when he talked to Spaulding early Wednesday, Gray said didn’t put up the gate up Tuesday night.

And so a little after midnight he heard the retriever nudge open the door with his nose. When he got up from bed he saw a strange light coming from the rear of the home, Spaulding said.

Getting downstairs he saw the fire and called for his wife Margaret to get out of the house. She and the retriever got out without injury, but the two other dogs, a spaniel and a smaller dog, would not come downstairs.

Gray, who recently had surgery on his foot, was unable to get back upstairs to get the two dogs while the flames burned higher.

Spaulding said Gray grabbed a fire extinguisher, but when he got out and saw the back of the house engulfed in flames, it was too big for the extinguisher to have any effect.

With the help of state Fire Marshall Investigators, Spaulding said the fire has been ruled accidental. He said the fire was touched off by an electrical plug on the outside of the house that became overloaded and burnt through the sheathing and melted the exterior siding causing it to catch fire.

Spaulding said the plug overloaded because a powerful fountain pump used to aerate the pond –keeping the small body of water from stagnating- had been plugged into it.

Firefighters have not yet been able to get into the home and find the remains of the dogs because it is too dangerous inside.

“The house is so unstable, the floors are collapsed, there is no way to get into what is left of the home to conduct a search,” Daly said. “The house is a total loss,” he said.

The brick facade of the home is still standing, as is the garage, but the roof of the house has fallen in and the rear of the house is very heavily damaged.

At 7 a.m. firefighters were climbing ladders to the roof of the still standing garage and putting out hotspots in the main part of the home.

Daly said about 40 firefighters responded to the blaze with water tankers coming from New Canaan, Darien, Turn of River and Long Ridge. While firefighters began shuttling water tankers to the home in the neighborhood without any hydrants,  Pound Ridge sent a tanker with a powerful pump that was able to reach the pond through a neighbor’s yard and draft water for the firefighters to quench the blaze.

Next door neighbor Dorian Beighley said she was watching TV and heard a popping sound and saw her cats look up when they heard the sound.

She then saw an unfamiliar light coming through her window and at first, figured her husband was driving down the driveway.  She got up and saw the flames coming from the Gray’s home and called 911.

She then walked down her driveway toward the house and could barely believe what she was seeing.  “It was completely from that end of the house to this end, it was a complete inferno,” Beighley said.

Her husband Sid, who contributed photos of the blaze said in an e-mail, “I heard a series of explosions at 12:30 a.m. I called New Canaan police and they said there was a major fire in North Stamford, just south of where we live and that he believed the explosions were related to propane tanks.”

Spaulding said that his investigation concluded that several regular sized propane tanks used for a back yard grill had exploded after the fire got them too hot.


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8 Responses

  1. FF-Fan says:

    Awwwwwww what’s wrong FF? Couldn’t get in the backdoor and now you’re a little cranky?

    Since you’re an FF, I’m hopefui you’ll take a little time and look at the run reports and pictures. Engines, tankers, quints, and a ladder truck ( that shouldn’t be allowed on the road anymore as per the law) were on scene. All part of the process to get water to the fire. Confusing I know.

    Why don’t you stow your rhetoric and get back in the gym. That 75lb. vest is heavy.

  2. Not FF says:

    First of all, I apologize on behalf of “FF” for being so rude in the comment section of what is an extremely sad article. Someone just lost their house and “FF” clearly cares about nothing more than some bogus political agenda that they feel the need to plug.

    Secondly, I’d like to give my condolences to the Gray family for the loss of their house and pets.

    Thirdly, I’d like to point out that “FF” is likely wrong. I’m not sure why he assumes that it would’ve been necessary for Stamford FD to pull water from the pond. I’m not a firefighter and I even know that engines come equipped with a tank of water. It’s more than likely that this is what Stamford FD used when they first arrived on the scene. Pound Ridge then likely arrived soon after and began pumping water from the pond, at which point it was unnecessary for Stamford FD to do the same. That’s called teamwork, not incompetence. I just hope that “FF” doesn’t stand for “FireFighter” because it’s a sad time that we live in when someone would criticize a professional firefighter for putting their life on the line on a regular basis, especially a fellow firefighter.

  3. Anthony Antonucci says:

    I know the Grays.
    I used to live in that neighborhood.
    Sorry for their loss.

  4. Anon says:

    Easy to be critical without having been there, perhaps there were smoke alarms but the dog woke them up when the explosions happened.

  5. LD100 says:

    Hey FF,

    If this was a fire in Turn of Rivers District why didn’t they, lrfco or BFD set up a draft pumper? I mean they are the rural water experts right?

    You can point the blame at the Mayor, Ted and all the Chiefs in Stamford for the mess of the fire service we have. We escaped another fire with out killing anyone, we’re one fire closer now…

  6. Chardonnay says:

    Correction: my previous post should have said “Smoke Alarms” not “smile alarms”. Certainly nothing to smile about in this story :-(

  7. Chardonnay says:

    It appears that the couple owes its life to their Retriever – as usual, it’s the dog who always saves the day! My question is, why didn’t this family have smile alarms installed? If the house was on fire, the alarms should have gone off. Maybe if they did have them installed properly their other two dogs who have not been found according to the article, would have had a chance to get out safely. Obviously if the home is destroyed and the dogs wouldn’t leave the home, the outcome speaks for itself. Sorry they lost their home. Much more sorry all the dogs were not saved.

  8. FF says:

    As usual, Stamford FD shows how incompetent they are. Pound Ridge didn’t bring any special kind of pump, every single fire engine ever built, ever, is set up to draft water from a pond, but with typical union laziness and incompetence, SFD didn’t bother.