HOURS after fire ripped through the Barber Pole Road home of Richard and Deborah Cary on Friday, Nov. 16, several Tuftonboro firemen remained to spray the charred ruin with fire retardant foam to eliminate hot spots. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
November 21, 2012TUFTONBORO — Tuftonboro resident Richard Cary, 78, lost his wife and his Tuftonboro Neck home within minutes early Friday morning, Nov. 16. He told Fire Chief Adam Thompson, the first to arrive at the scene, that his wife, Deborah 80, had awakened him to report seeing a red glow outside the house. The two went downstairs where he called 911. That was at 1:11 a.m.
He went outside to turn the garden hose on the fire and quickly discovered that it wouldn't work. When he turned to go back into the house, he was repulsed by the heat and smoke. His wife, who had gone upstairs to get some clothing, was missing.
Thompson said that he arrived at the scene at 1:24 a.m., followed immediately by the first unit. Already, the house was 90 percent involved, and flames, fed by propane from the couple's underground tank, were leaping 80 to 100 feet high. At the scene that afternoon, he pointed to the charred bark going up the trunk of a tall pine.
Fire doubles every minute, and according to fire professionals, a fire supported by such a highly flammable gas can intensify ten fold. Firemen were unable to enter the building.
They "deck gunned" the building, said Thompson, emptying a 1,000 gallon capacity tank in one minute. Two more trucks sprayed their 2,500 gallon loads, and the Moultonboro Fire Boat shot water from Lake Winnipesaukee at the waterfront house located along Barber Pole Road, at 1,000 gallons a minute.
The fire was called under control at 3:11 a.m.
The guest house and houses on either side appeared unscathed to the casual observer that afternoon. Fireman Rich Piper, one of the 18 Tuftonboro fire department members who fought the early morning fire, commented that the wind had shifted toward the lake, helping the effort to avert further destruction.
Thompson said that around 30 to 35 firefighters in all worked to control the fire that morning, including apparatus and manpower provided by Wolfeboro, Moultonborough, Center Ossipee, Sandwich, Alton, Middleton, and Wakefield Fire Rescue Departments.
The West Ossipee Fire Rescue Department provided coverage for the Mirror Lake Station and other departments from Freedom, Ossipee Corner, Tamworth and Effingham each provided an engine or a tanker for the three alarm fire. Members of the Tuftonboro Police Department and N.H. State Police were also on site.
Once the fire was extinguished, the NH Electric Cooperative shut off electricity to the residence to look for Deborah, who could not be accounted for following a search of the surrounding area. Personnel from the NH State Fire Marshall's office recovered her body in the house once the fire was extinguished, followed in the early morning hours by a NH Medical Examiner and County Attorney Tom Dewhurst.
An insurance company investigator and an adjuster inspected the charred ruins of the home built by the Carys on land that has been in Deborah's family for more than a hundred years.
"The family has all our sympathy," said the Board of Selectmen Chairman Dan Duffy. Cary, a retired architect, "worked so hard" as a member of the fire station building committee, offering "invaluable expertise," commented Duffy. "We're just devastated. It's such a shame."
Deborah, an active community member and a weaver juried by the League of N.H. Craftsmen, was known for her colorful scarves and shawls.
The fire remains under investigation by the N.H. State Fire Marshall's Office, the Tuftonboro Fire Rescue Department and Tuftonboro Police Department.
Ambulance crews from North Conway, Stewart's Ambulance Service and LifeStar EMS assisted at the scene. A Tuftonboro firefighter was transported to Huggins Hospital for evaluation, treated for injuries and released.
A memorial service for Deborah is planned for Friday, Nov. 30 at 2 p.m. at The Village Players Theatre on Glendon Street in Wolfeboro. Please see her obituary on page A10.