Fire destroys home in Beacon Falls

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Firefighters Michael Rupis, left, and Jonathan Fitzpatrick fight a blaze at 144 Blackberry Hill Road in Beacon Falls Sunday morning. -CONTRIBUTED
Firefighters Michael Rupis, left, and Jonathan Fitzpatrick fight a blaze at 144 Blackberry Hill Road in Beacon Falls Sunday morning. -CONTRIBUTED

BEACON FALLS — A fire Sunday morning devastated a single-family home at 144 Blackberry Hill Road and injured three men, including two firefighters.

Beacon Hose Company No. 1 received a call for a structure fire at 10:20 Sunday morning, according to fire company spokesman Jeremy Rodorigo.

The right side of the house and an attached garage were already involved in heavy fire when firefighters arrived, Rodorigo said.

A man, with a physical ailment, was found lying just outside the back of the house, Rodorigo said. He said the house is surrounded by high grass and brush and firefighters couldn’t see the man at first.

Rodorigo said a passerby, Ken Battis of Beacon Falls, told him he could hear someone yelling for help. Rodorigo checked the area and found the man, lying on the ground very close to the flames. Firefighters carried the man to the front lawn where emergency medical personnel treated him, he said.

Rodorigo said the heat radiating from the fire burned the man. The man suffered second degree burns on a significant part of his body, but was alert and talking at the scene, he said.

Rodorigo said the man was taken to the trauma center at Waterbury Hospital, and later transported to the burn center at Bridgeport Hospital.

The man was not identified. The home is occupied by Frederick and Diane Strumpf, according to telephone records.

Rodorigo said he talked with the man’s daughter Tuesday and she said he was doing OK.

Rodorigo credited Battis with saving the man’s life and emphasized that in the event of a fire the severe heat is enough to cause significant injury.  

“It’s not enough to get out of the house,” he said. “You have to get away from the house.”

Rodorigo said no one else was in the house at the time of the fire, but a cat died in the blaze.

Two firefighters were also injured fighting the fire.

Jim Trzaski broke his arm when he fell through the floor, which had been weakened by the fire, Rodorigo said. Trzaski was able to get out of the house under his own power, he said.

Mike Rupsis sprained his elbow when he was knocked over by a hose, Rodorigo said.

Both firefighters were taken to Waterbury Hospital, and were treated and released, Rodorigo said.

Some 35 Beacon Hose firefighters helped fight the fire for hours. Assistant Fire Chief Ray Buzgo said by about 2 p.m. with about 80 to 85 percent of the fire put out, and fire still in the attic, the decision was made to tear down the home.

Rodorigo said the decision to raze the house was made by the building official and fire marshal because it was deemed unsafe to leave standing. 

All that remained of house at 144 Blackberry Hill Road after a fire Sunday was a pile of rubble. -CONTRIBUTED
All that remained of house at 144 Blackberry Hill Road after a fire Sunday was a pile of rubble. -CONTRIBUTED

By 4:30 p.m. the once white Cape Cod-style home was a large pile of charred rubble. Yellow caution tape was tied to trees on two sides of the property.

First Selectman Gerard Smith said the town will pay for a fence to be put around the rubble to ensure public safety. The homeowner is responsible for removing the debris, he said.

Smith was at the scene Sunday afternoon. Firefighters kept watch over the property overnight until a fence could be put in. 

“This was a long day,” Smith said. “Praise God no loss of life.”

Firefighters from Naugatuck, Oxford and the Bethany fire departments were called to the scene to help, Rodorigo said. Firefighters from Seymour and Bethany stood by at Beacon Hose fire headquarters.

Buzgo said the fire started at the back of the home. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.