12 Tribes farmhouse in Westminster destroyed by fire - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

12 Tribes farmhouse in Westminster destroyed by fire

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Courtesy: Westminster Fire Department Courtesy: Westminster Fire Department
Courtesy: Red Cross Courtesy: Red Cross
Courtesy: Red Cross Courtesy: Red Cross
Courtesy: Red Cross Courtesy: Red Cross
Courtesy: Red Cross Courtesy: Red Cross

Another devastating house fire in our region. A day after two people died in Dummerston, several families lost their home in Westminster.

Firefighters worked to extinguish hot spots at the Westminster farmhouse for several hours Tuesday. Only the shell of the structure remained.

"I would say a total loss," Westminster Fire Chief Cole Streeter said.

Those living at the home say the blaze started a little after 7 a.m.

"Everyone made it out safely, yes. No injuries at this point," Streeter said.

But the frigid temperatures and icy conditions made difficult work for responding departments, who were call in from a handful of neighboring towns.

"It's been tough, with all the ice it's been tough. We got guys that are falling left and right," Streeter said. "You know, you get covered with water and it's ice in 10 or 15 minutes. Yeah, it makes it a little more challenging."

Several families belonging to the Twelve Tribes religious sect call the Basin Farm home.

Back in 1984, a Vermont chapter of the sect made headlines when agents raided an Island Pond location on suspicion of child abuse. A judge later ruled the raid unconstitutional and members were exonerated. Twelve Tribes now has three communities in Vermont, dozens across the U.S. and in several other countries.

Members have been farming the land here for more than 20 years. No animals were injured and firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to nearby outbuildings.

"It has been a busy season. This is my third response in three days," said Rob Mather of the American Red Cross.

Officials from the Red Cross provided firefighters with food and warm drinks. Those displaced by the fire, who declined to speak on camera, told Red Cross officials their help was not necessary.

"They have declined any services from the Red Cross, but we have provided them with our contact information and hopefully they will follow up with us later in the week," Mather said.

At this time, firefighters say the fire does not appear to be suspicious. They believe it started near the wood stove. However, investigators have been called in to determine the exact cause.

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