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Scituate fire that consumed four homes is called accidental

Posted by Your Town  March 9, 2012 10:13 AM

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As residents began the sad duty of picking through their fire-damaged homes Friday morning, investigators said that a Scituate fire on Thursday that left two homes destroyed and severely damaged two others was an accidental blaze.

The blaze on Humarock Beach, spread by high winds Thursday afternoon, apparently started in the kitchen of one of the homes and may have been linked to a radio.

"A member of the family told us the fire started in his kitchen and was associated with a radio,” said Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. β€œHe observed a fire around the radio built into the kitchen counter. They constantly left the radio on. He was able to give the investigators a detailed statement. It could be an electrical problem associated with the radio or an electrical problem in the home. We may never know.”

Coan said two houses were destroyed except for half a chimney along with substantial damage to two other homes. He said a trailer and detached garage were also damaged by the flames. The Globe reported Friday that three of the homes were not occupied at the time of the blaze and a fourth who called 911 got out safely.

Town officials have told investigators damage could run into the millions of dollars. According to the town's 2012 valuations, the house at 111 Humarock Beach, where the fire started, was valued at $473,000. The land is valued at over a million dollars.

Another address, 112 Humarock Beach, the site of Alice's House, a non profit that provides spiritual renewel and recovery for recovering alcoholics and cancer patients since 1997, was valued at $131,000 according to the town. The land is valued at $657,900.

The loss of the charitable home is painful for many families, said Janet Gibson, the founder and president of Alice's House. Gibson strolled along the outskirts of the property Friday morning, picking up charred pages of burned books and photographing the remains.

"It was devastating along here for everybody. So many people [have lived here] and felt like this was such a sacred place," Gibson said.

The house was rented in the summertime to the same families for the past 15 years, and was a haven to families in need of spiritual recovery or just a place to gather.

Gibson was unsure about rebuilding, and said she would have to speak to the Board of Directors about what it might cost.

Mark Davis, one of the owners of 111 Humarock, was also unsure about starting anew.

"We have no idea. I don't know what's next," Davis said. "There are eight people that need to figure out the next step."

The family-owned home was occupied by Davis's sister, Dianne Tarmey, and her family at the time of the fire. Tarmey had been caring for their mother at the home until her recent death in December.

Tarmey's husband made it out of the building along with the family dog. Her son was out skateboarding at the time of the fire. Davis said his sister has somewhere to stay for now, and most likely would live in another of the family-owned homes in Humarock.

As other residents picked through the charred remains of their houses, they were positive they would rebuild.

"Absolutely, we'll rebuild, but it's devastating when you lose something like this. There were a lot of memories with my son, wife. It was a deep loss for the family,'' said Isaac Shweky, who owned one of the damaged homes.

Shweky lives in Connecticut, but the house is used year-round by his wife, who travels back and forth for her job.

Shweky said when he got the phone call, he began to cry. He was still crying when he went to pick up his son, Michael, who is five-and-a-half-years-old, from school.

"I was in tears, and my son said, 'At least we have each other. At least we are together.' Five-and-a-half and he said that," Shweky said. "Thank God no one was in the house, but you have to start digging through memories."

Scituate Fire Chief Richard Judge said he was grateful no other houses were destroyed by the fire.

"It was fortunate that it didn't [spread further]," he said. "Our guys did a great job. We were fortunate that there was an empty lot between two of the houses, we made a stand there and we were successful."

Judge said that the two houses that are partially still standing will most likely have to be torn down, as it would be cheaper just to rebuild from scratch.

Neighbors said the community would come together to help the families.

"Everybody is going to be helping in one way or another. Cleaning up, offering clothes, finding people a place to stay," said Bill Niemann, who lives at 8 Harvard Street.

He said Humarock residents are strong, especially having survived so many storms.

"This is nothing new. They are used to tragedy here. Hurricanes, floods, other communities [it would break them], but people expect it here. We're used to catastrophe," he said.

Maureen Rosenberg, an employee at Sands End Cafe and nearby resident, said people had already been calling the restaurant asking where to donate.

"There's a lot of support for the families," she said. "There is a lot of interest on the part of the community [to help]."

SANDS (Scituate Alliance for Natural Disaster Services) is collecting assistance for the families. Checks made payable to SANDS to PO Box 342, Scituate MA 02066. Gift cards are also welcome.

Mike Bello of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

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