Fire destroys Essex Junction homes

Published: Mar. 2, 2019 at 1:32 PM EST
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Fire crews from multiple departments rushed to Essex Junction at 5:45 a.m. on Saturday after getting a report of a fire. Investigators say it may have been sparked by a lit cigarette. No one was hurt in the fire.

"It was a lot of people crying," neighbor Jacob Boulet said.

People were startled awake beds when they heard alarms on their street. Fire billowed high in the air.

"It made the building twice as high, and the smoke was just a tower in the sky, it was so big. I could feel the warmth from so far away," Jacob said.

Jacob said he was worried about his grandmother who lives next door to the units, now a burnt pile, and his own house, which is just a few doors down. His brother, Hunter, said the sight was sobering.

"It's never going to happen to me. But then, all of a sudden, you go out, and it's just a few doors down. It's pretty scary," Hunter said.

Firefighters from Essex, Essex Junction, Colchester Center, St. Michael's College, Underhill and Jericho, as well as Williston snaked hoses through. The closest hydrant was a street away, on Pinecrest.

The fire jumped quickly from one unit to the next. Fire Captain Matthew LaRock said the material used in today's furniture and decorations can help fire spread fast.

"It can double in size almost every 30 seconds. Where in the past, a fire doubled in size every minute to two minutes," Captain LaRock said.

"You never really forget the smell. It's like a burnt metal and plastic. It just stays with you," Jacob said.

Luckily, fire walls helped contain the fire to two units. Jacob said even after firefighters put out the fire, the siding melted off.

"It just showed how hot it was. It was very disturbing to look at," Jacob said.

Four hours later, firefighters started rolling up the hoses and spraying themselves down with water to wash off chemicals. The American Red Cross passed out coffee to the first responders.

The Boulet brothers agreed. Belongings can be replaced. People cannot.

A woman living in one of the destroyed units had been on vacation. A man living in the other got out safely.

"We're lucky it didn't collapse and burn anybody," Hunter said.

Police are reminding people to make sure they fully put their cigarettes out, and to throw them away in fire resistant containers.