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.