‘They’ve touched a lot of lives’: Community rallies to support Raymonds after Bernardston fire

  • 178 Turners Falls Road in Bernardston was the scene of a two-alarm fire that consumed the 250-year-old home of Bob and Linda Raymond on Monday. The Raymonds were not at home at the time. Bernardston Fire Chief Peter Shedd said the insured structure was a total loss. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Ice forms from spray from firefighters battling a blaze at 178 Turners Falls Road in Bernardston Monday evening. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The rear of the home at 178 Turners Falls Road in Bernardston was destroyed, with the front of the home heavily damaged. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Smoke rises from the remains of 178 Turners Falls Road in Bernardston Monday evening. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Firefighters on Greenfield’s Tower 1 pulled away the slate roof to fight the fire at 178 Turners Falls Road in Bernardston on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • What remains of the home at 178 Turners Falls Road in Bernardston, pictured Tuesday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • What remains of the home at 178 Turners Falls Road in Bernardston, pictured Tuesday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Published: 12/20/2022 4:41:31 PM

BERNARDSTON — A two-alarm fire consumed the home of Bob and Linda Raymond at 178 Turners Falls Road on Monday night, leaving the community rallying to launch fundraising efforts.

First responders were alerted at around 5:30 p.m. when a neighbor called 911. The first firefighter to arrive reported flames showing through the roof of the 250-year-old, post-and-beam home, prompting a second alarm and a call for mutual aid from area fire departments.

Fire Chief Peter Shedd deemed the house a total loss on Monday night but reported that no injuries resulted. The rear of the building where the kitchen and wood stove were was completely destroyed, while the front of the home was still standing but heavily damaged. An adjacent barn also suffered some damage.

The Bernardston Fire Department and state Department of Fire Services are investigating the cause, although Shedd said he believes the fire was related to the wood stove.

The fire’s primary location, Shedd added, was in the building’s main entrance, meaning firefighters “had no access, other than the windows.”

“We had no angles; just being an old construction, we had a lot of extra work cutting the windows out to make it safe to enter,” Shedd explained Tuesday morning. He said there was “heavy fire on the roof,” and old buildings tend to have hidden wall spaces and other areas where fire can spread unimpeded. “There’s a lot of places fire can get in and travel.”

No one was in the one-and-a-half-story home at the time of the fire, with Bob Raymond, who retired from the Bernardston Selectboard in the spring after 15 years, having been at work in Hinsdale, New Hampshire. His wife, Linda, had left home to watch their grandchildren play basketball at Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield. Both were alerted to the fire and returned home while firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze.

Watching firefighters pour water on all sides of his home, Bob Raymond remarked, “Best firefighters in the world. The only thing I was afraid of was fire and lightning.”

Raymond recounted how years ago the home was struck by lightning, but they were home at the time and the Fire Department was able to save the structure.

“We are kind of lucky we weren’t home,” Raymond said. “It went up so fast we might not have gotten out.”

The Raymonds have several relatives in the area where they might stay, with their daughter living right next door. Raymond said the home was insured.

Responding fire departments included Bernardston, Greenfield, Turners Falls, Gill, Northfield and South Deerfield, as well as Guilford, Brattleboro and Vernon, Vermont.

“The mutual aid was great. Unfortunately we’ve all come to where we depend on mutual aid,” Shedd commented. “You can’t ask for a finer bunch than what we have here in Franklin County.”

Jennifer Glazier, Bob and Linda Raymond’s daughter, has set up a GoFundMe for the couple and the United Church of Bernardston, in which the Raymonds are deeply involved, is working to set up its own fundraising efforts. In the GoFundMe’s description, Glazier thanked the community for offering so much support to her parents and her family in the fire’s aftermath.

“They are safe and feel blessed to be a part of such an amazing community. We are humbled by how many of you have reached out to offer help and support,” Glazier wrote. “We have decided to honor your requests to offer help by creating this GoFundMe. We are grateful for anything you feel compelled to give.”

The GoFundMe can be found at bit.ly/3WeA3ha. As of Tuesday evening, about $2,500 had been donated.

United Church of Bernardston Pastor David Neil said Bob and Linda Raymond are “always the first” to offer help in the church and within the community as a whole, and that its appropriate for the church to provide some support of its own.

“They are pillars of the church, they are the salt of the Earth,” Neil said. “This is horrendous beyond description. … The only good thing about it is nobody was hurt.”

Neil said the church is working to get its PayPal account up and running so people can donate without GoFundMe taking a percentage. If people want to write checks, they can also drop off donations at the United Church of Bernardston, 58 Church St., or send them by mail to the United Church of Bernardston, P.O. Box 503, Bernardston, MA 01337, Attn: Raymond Family Fund.

People are encouraged to keep an eye out for the PayPal QR code the church will be posting on its Facebook page at facebook.com/ucbernardston.

“They’ve touched a lot of lives,” Neil said, “and hopefully people will have a chance to show some gratitude for the gifts Bob and Linda have given them.”

Reach Paul Franz at pfranz@recorder.com or 413-930-4128.


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