St. Albans Blaze

As I was working in my office yesterday afternoon at home in St. Albans, I glanced out the window and saw a big black cloud of smoke abruptly bloom in town.

I knew that couldn’t be good, and the Burlington Free Press, where I work as a reporter, might be interested, so I headed down toward the source of the growing black tower of smoke.

The blazing house was on Nason Street in St. Albans, and as I started asking bystanders what they saw, I learned an elderly man suffered a fate I fear the most.

As the house burst into flames, a man named Kyle Haggerty, who lives down the street, happened to be driving by. To Haggerty’s horror, he saw an elderly man, half out on the porch of the burning home,  half in the doorway, and he was on fire.

Haggerty said he ran to the man, beat out the flames on the man’s pants and dragged him away from the blazing home. Haggerty clearly thought quickly and well, and might have saved the man.

But Haggerty said the old man’s legs were severely burned, so I don’t know what the guy’s fate is. I haven’t gotten an update on this from the fire department yet.

 To me, that is the worst possible fate, being severely burned. I once got a third degree burn on my had that was just the size of a pencil eraser. It was no big deal, but it still irritated me for weeks.  Imagine burns far  more extensive than that.

When I talked with Haggerty, maybe 15 or 20 minutes after he rescued the man, he was still shaken. He appeared to be a balanced, tough guy, and he seemed fine, but he said the adrenaline from the experience was still making him tremble. And clearly the sight of the injured man was bothering him. Understandably so.

 It must have been horrible for Haggerty to see the man on fire, and his terrible burns.

I talked to Haggerty in his house down the street from the fire. After the experience, Haggerty said he couldnt’ bear to go outside and join the neighbors standing in the drizzle, watching the house burn down.

After talking with Haggerty and congratulating him on doing so well with the situation, I went back to the flaming house, to gather more info and to take pictures and video of the blaze.

Afterwards,  I went back home, and with the help of photo editor Ryan Mercer, I sent a story, some more photos and a rather jumpy video of the fire to the Free Press.

I finished filing the story and videos, then went to the top of the stairs to my basement, where I tested the smoke alarm. It worked, so I felt better.

UPDATE: At around 11 a.m. Vermont State Police sent me an update. The fire victims is Orville Fields, 73. He’s in the intensive care unit at a Burlington hospital with severe burns to his legs and lower torso. It doesn’t look good, unfortunately.

And now there’s another major house fire going on in Milton, Vt., about 15 miles south of St. Albans. No details yet.

3 Responses to “St. Albans Blaze”

  1. Denis Says:

    maybe haggerty will get some kind of hero award for his good deed.

    reminding us to test our smoke alarms was a good suggestion.

  2. kim Says:

    Yeah… I’ve got a fire hazard in the barn now b/c I’m using straw bales as insulation. I need to cover up the bales with tin or something.

  3. mattalltrades Says:

    Kim: Covering up the bales with tin might make it a bigger hazard. It might contribute to spontaneous combustion if water condenses on the tin near the hay. Also, if the hay caught fire for any reason, the tin could channel the flames and heat up the wall faster, making the fire spread more quickly.

    This is a big project, but I’d find a way to get rid of the hay and use something else for insulation.
    This is unsolicited advice, true, but I make exceptions if I perceive a hazard.

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