A charred, smoking foundation is all that's left of the Towne family farm. It was about 8:40 p.m. Wednesday when a neighbor on Three Mile Bridge Road spotted flames and banged on the door of the attached two-story house.
"When she came to the door she says, 'I think your barn is on fire.' And when I looked-- yeah, that's a fire," Rita Towne said. "Running up to the house to get to the landline, I was trying to run as fast as I could and I felt like I was running in slow motion, that was the worst part."
In the few minutes it took to call 911 and her husband, the fire consumed the barn, moving toward the house. For Rita, protecting her dozen horses in a separate, adjacent barn was top priority.
"On the way out I started grabbing pictures and then when I saw the explosion I thought the side of the arena was burning, I dropped the pictures for some reason, I didn't hang on to them, I threw them down and ran. I said I got to get to the barn," she said.
Meanwhile, Brad Towne who was away chairing a town select board meeting, raced home.
"The barn was pretty much skeleton remains and it was already going into the house," he said. "So, the fire departments were here-- it was just dry wood and it went."
His grandfather bought the now 150-year-old farm back in the 1920s, when it was operated as a dairy. Former state legislator Ruth Towne and her husband raised Brad and his brother in the rambling farm house. And Brad and his wife raised their two kids there.
"So, we lost all of my mother's stuff and what not... nobody got hurt," Brad said.
Neighbors dropped by Thursday to deliver supplies and words of encouragement.
Fire investigators confirmed a skid steer sparked the blaze.
"I don't know if it was a short in the skid steer or what it was," Brad said. "We've had the skid steer in the barn before."
The horses, although spooked, are OK.
"They're trying to get back to a routine of eating and drinking a little water, that's what they wanna do is have a routine, so we're just waiting to see what our routine's gonna be," Rita said.
The family will stay with relatives in the neighborhood until they figure out their next move. The assessed damage is estimated at over $200,000. But it's the loss of family memories that looms large.
"The house was in the family... but we move on," Brad said.
The Towne family's cat, Jack, was singed in the fire, but is reportedly doing OK.
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