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Francestown

Man suffers from high carbon monoxide levels in home fire

FRANCESTOWN — An electrical fire left a house on Mountain Road almost completely gutted-out after it caught fire early Friday morning, and left a resident with high levels of carbon monoxide in his bloodstream. A family pet was also lost.

The fire damaged the house from the first floor to the attic, Fire Chief Larry Kullgren said in an interview Monday. Kullgren said the structure of the home is still standing, but because of heavy smoke, heat and water damage Kullgren doesn’t think the house can be saved.

The house is owned by George and Jackie Whipple, but only George was home at the time of the fire, Kullgren said. George reported the fire at 4:47 a.m. when he awoke to the smell of smoke. He rescued his two dogs and went to the home of his neighbor, John Perry, to call for help.

Forty-five minutes after the fire and ambulance crew arrived, Kullgren said George was transported to Monadnock Community Hospital by the Peterborough ambulance due to high levels of carbon monoxide in his bloodstream, Kullgren said.

Firefighters contained the fire within two and a half hours, but they could not pinpoint the room where the fire originated due to the extensive damage, said Kullgren. Firefighters determined that the cause was accidental and undetermined, but electrical in nature, Kullgren said. Fire crews could not verify what started it due to the extensive damage. The Whipple’s wood furnace and chimney were in excellent condition, Kullgren said, so firefighters ruled those out as initiators.

“I don’t know how he did it,” Jackie Whipple said in an interview Wednesday, referring to her husband making it out of the house with the dogs.

Her husband did not wake up to smoke detectors, but the sound of bottles blowing up, Jackie said. Her husband told her it was very hard to see when he was trying to escape, the house was full of smoke.

While George and the two dogs tried to escape, a door blew shut in front of them, Jackie said. “It took a while [for George] to get out of the house,” especially because their Labrador had to be practically dragged from the house, and George carried the other, smaller dog, Jackie said.

Everyday since the fire, Jackie said that George has gone to the hospital in Peterborough for nebulizer treatments. Otherwise he is doing well, she said.

They are constantly hearing from friends in the community who want to help. Jackie said it makes her thankful for the people in her life and it’s like a “reaffirmation of faith in humanity.”

At the time of the fire, Jackie was visiting her sister in Florida. The two were out for breakfast when Jackie’s son, Derek, called about the fire. Jackie’s sister made flight arrangements for her and Jackie arrived in Francestown that evening.

“I didn’t want to stay on vacation when I didn’t know what I was coming home to,” Jackie said.

Since the fire took out the wall of her bedroom, she said if she had been home at the time she might not have made it.

Jackie said they don’t know what started the fire, but they know it started in the wall between the dining and living rooms. The Fire Marshal at the scene told George this is a strange place for a fire to start.

The Whipples are currently staying at a friend’s house down the road who have another home in Bermuda. They plan to build a new home once they hear back from insurance adjusters, which may take up to six weeks and they want to build their future home in Francestown. “This community is our home,” Jackie said. The family lived in that house for 28 years, she said.

Jackie said she has already gone through two boxes of cards, thanking people who have helped after the fire. She said this area has really remarkable towns that are so good to their people.

Unfortunately, the Whipples’ cat, Sadie, perished in the fire, Jackie said, possibly due to smoke inhalation.

The Francestown Fire Department was assisted by crews from Antrim, Bennington, Deering, Hancock, Lyndeborough, New Boston and the Peterborough ambulance team.

Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or larceci@ledgertranscript.com.

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