Berlin Fire Chief Joe Greer reports that his department and the Farmington Rich Creek Fire Department were called at 3:22 a.m. Sunday to 2305 Verona Caney Road where Christine Lively was the head of household.
She, her grandson and his mother escaped to a neighbor's house because the smoke detector was working, although its sound was mistaken for something else, Greer said. The boy awaked his grandmother in the burning house.
"The little boy was saying, 'Grammy, your alarm clock won't stop going off,' when in actuality it was the smoke detector," Greer said of what he learned from the women and their friends.
"A working smoke detector will save your life," the fire chief said. "This could have been a completely different scenario.
"They were actually in the neighbor's house" when firefighters arrived, Greer said.
Because Lively was the head of the household and her relatives were being cared for, Greer didn't get the names of the boy, or his mother in those predawn hours. She had been married to Brad Lively, he said.
The cause of the fire hadn't been determined, but Greer knew that it started in the laundry room near the washer and drier; "The same room houses the electrical panel, but I didn't see anything there," Greer said.
"They cannot live in the house," he said. "It's rebuildable. There was heavy fire damage in the laundry room. The fire extended into the kitchen. The rest of the house sustained smoke and heat damage.
"Ms. Lively's parents arrived from Manchester to help and the Red Cross was also there to help" deal with immediate housing issues stemming from the single story home fire, Greer said.
"When we arrived, the fire was rolling out a front window and on the side of the building," he said. "There was smoke all around the building."
Because the firefighters couldn't find anyone outside near the house, there was concern that they were still inside, partly because there was a car in the driveway. The fire was attacked quickly and aggressively. Firefighters entered, attacked the fire and started a search for occupants.
"We had the fire knocked down and then saw a man by the fence," Greer said of how firefighters realized from the neighbor that the residents had escaped. "Fortunately, the occupants had fled to safety at the neighbors house. No one was in the house except the family dog - found in the bedroom. It had died due to heat and smoke conditions."
When the grandmother was awakened by her grandson, Greer said, "They got up and found smoke coming from the laundry room. They made an attempt to put out the fire but the smoke became too heavy and they had to leave.
"The laundry room was heavily damaged," he continued. "The fire went into the attic and through the roof.
"We were all very relieved the occupants got out safely," Greer said, complimenting the firefighters' cooperation, but adding, "It's not just the fire departments...
"Our dispatching was clear and direct. A Sheriff's deputy had the driveway identified as we pulled up. Emergency Medical Service personnel were on stand-by at the scene. The Emergency Management Agency was there with a tanker. The Red Cross brought us refreshments and Duck River Electric Membership Corp. was prompt in getting the power disconnected from the house."