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Stray ash starts Gill house fire

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Fire that started on the exterior of 398 Main Rd in Gill was knocked down by area firefighters Friday afternoon.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Fire that started on the exterior of 398 Main Rd in Gill was knocked down by area firefighters Friday afternoon.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Fire that started on the exterior of 398 Main Rd in Gill was knocked down by area firefighters Friday afternoon.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Fire that started on the exterior of 398 Main Rd in Gill was knocked down by area firefighters Friday afternoon.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Fire that started on the exterior of 398 Main Rd in Gill was knocked down by area firefighters Friday afternoon.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Fire that started on the exterior of 398 Main Rd in Gill was knocked down by area firefighters Friday afternoon.

GILL — A stray ember started a fire in a house that’s part of the old Renaissance Community commune Friday afternoon.

“I was about to empty my ash bucket (from a wood stove), and turned my back for a moment,” said homeowner Daniel Botkin.

Wind gusts picked up an ember, and fanned it, starting the fire.

“I’ll never do that again,” Botkin said.

Botkin had set his ash bucket down next to his house, as he went to tend to his goats and rabbits in nearby pens. Done with his chores, he went back indoors with his wife Divya Shinns Botkin, who smelled smoke around 2:30 p.m.

“At first, I thought it was my blueberries on the stove,” she said.

“I went out, and there were flames creeping up the outside wall,” said Daniel Botkin. “I could have put it out, but my hose was frozen solid.”

He called for help, and the Gill, Erving, Northfield, Bernardston, Turners Falls, South Deerfield, and Montague Center fire departments came out to fight the fire.

Flames were extinguished by water from a tanker truck, and firefighters cut into ceilings and exterior walls to see if the fire had spread. By 3:15, the fire was declared under control.

Botkin said he has fire insurance on the house, which he’s owned for 10 years. The couple runs Laughing Dog Farm, and none of their animals were harmed in the fire. Damages were contained to the area where the fire started.

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