JIM SHEA, Tamworth resident and avid photographer whose home on Mason Hill serves as the perfect backdrop for photographs, shows this photographer images of the barn that was destroyed by fire just a few hours earlier. Shea also shared photos of the goats that he and his wife were raising. Sadly, the goats perished in the blaze. (Mellisa Seamans photo)
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March 01, 2012TAMWORTH — Despite their sorrow for what they have lost, a local couple is grateful for what was not lost when a massive fire destroyed their barn and killed their five goats early Monday morning, Feb. 27.
Pure luck could be credited for preventing the fire from causing a much more devastating loss.
At their home on Mason Hill Road Monday afternoon, Jim and Cathy Arseneault-Shea recounted the harrowing chain of events that unfolded the night before. It was just after midnight when the Sheas went to bed. They had been up late to attend to the bottle feeding of their two baby goats. Jim woke about 2 a.m. to go to the bathroom and said, as he usually does, he looked out the window towards the barn. This time, however, he noticed a strange orange glow coming from the barn. He went out to investigate to find the barn was on fire and alerted Cathy. While she frantically set to calling 911 he tried to rescue the baby goats and the adult goats from the barn to no avail as the flames pushed him back. As the two story barn burst into flames fueled by the old wood of the barn and the hay stored inside of it, Jim rushed around trying to save whatever he could from the heat of the towering fire, including the family car which he said likely would have melted under the heat.
The Shea's estimate it took close to half an hour from the original call to 911 until fire department crews arrived at the scene. The Sheas, concerned the fire was going to next attack their 1870s farmhouse, began gathering up important items in the house in case they needed to flee their property, including their computer hard drive and photographs.
A plastic thermometer mounted on the house just outside the front door did melt under the heat but the house was otherwise unscathed, a credit to the local firefighters said Cathy.
"I have always felt our local volunteer firefighters are heroes. I am so impressed with their dedication. We are so grateful for what they did here last night," said Cathy.
Jim took photographs during the event and said once the barn started going there was little anyone could have done to save it. An excavator was brought in the next morning to turn over the smoldering pile of rubble left after the barn caved into its foundation.
A nearby chicken house was singed in the blaze but all of the chickens were unharmed. Jim, a carpenter, said he lost all of his tools in the fire as well as years' worth of collectibles. Jim, known to many around town for his cultivation of specialty culinary mushrooms was also saddened to point out he lost his dehydrator that he uses to dry out the mushrooms and other garden herbs.
Cathy, a music teacher at White Mountain Waldorf School and a member of the popular steel drum band Mango Groove, tried to find the positive in the situation but joked that she is never taking a vacation again. Last week was school vacation week and over the course of 10 days she was in a car accident, had a root canal, took trips to the doctor in a white-knuckle snowstorm, and then the fire happened.
The Shea's home is owned by Kate Thompson of Tamworth and the Sheas have been tenants since 2001. They said they do have renter's insurance but are unsure what, if anything, they lost in the barn fire will be covered by their insurance.
Ultimately, in this time of loss, Cathy was able to find gratitude in what was saved. "The fact that he woke up is the reason we didn't lose the house and our own lives," she said.
In addition to Tamworth Fire and Rescue, emergency personnel from West Ossipee and Madison Fire Departments as well as North Conway Ambulance responded to assist.