According to Whitingham Fire Chief Stanley Janovsky, nobody was home when the fire started. The blaze was reported by a driver who noticed flames and smoke from the road. “We were toned out at 2:30 pm, and got there within three minutes,” Janovsky said, “But it was already fully involved.”
Even with the quick response, the chalet-style house couldn’t be saved. When firefighters arrived, the fire was so intense that Janovsky deemed it unsafe for interior fire fighting. “There was a strong breeze fanning the flames,” Janovsky said. “The roof collapsed about five minutes after we got there.”
The breeze that whipped up the flames also pushed the fire toward the back of the property – bushes close to the windward side of the building were barely affected by the flames, while the grass was scorched all around the leeward side of the house. Firefighters ran a 4-inch line down Town Hill Road and hooked up to a dry hydrant at a firefighting pond near the bottom of the hill. With plenty of water available, firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading, despite the wind.
By 3 pm, there was little left of the structure, and firefighters were dousing hot spots with hand lines. “When the upstairs collapsed into the basement, it covered some of the living space down there, so we had mattresses burning under the debris,” said Janovsky.
Although homeowner John Galaske Sr. works at his business located on the same property, Bad Boys Automotive, he wasn’t home at the time. Janovsky says Galaske Sr. happened to be headed to Bennington at the time of the fire.
Other residents of the house, John Galaske Jr., his wife Sarah, and their children, were also away from the property at the time. Galaske Jr. is a partner in Bad Boys Automotive.
Both families lost all of their possessions to the fire. The family stayed at a Wilmington motel, according to Janovsky, and Twice Blessed, a community organization serving residents of the Deerfield Valley, has provided emergency cash and clothing. Although a relief fund hadn’t yet been set up for the Galaske families as of press time, a Twice Blessed representative said that checks to Twice Blessed could be earmarked for the Galaskes. To make a donation or for more information contact Twice Blessed at (802) 464-7500, or stop by the Twice Blessed thrift store at 716 Route 100 North in Wilmington.