Dave St. Pierre, photo
ST. ALBANS TOWN — Sixty firefighters from three departments battled a fire on Maquam Shore Road in St. Albans Town Wednesday that destroyed a couple’s lakefront home of 42 years.
The home belonged to Anna and Gabriel Gagne and was also home to Father Leonidas Laroche.
St. Albans Town Fire Chief Harold Cross said firefighters were called to the scene at around 3:15 p.m. A two-car garage with rooms overhead located at the front of the house was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, said Cross.
“The power line in front of the house was down across the driveway and arching all over the place,” said Cross. Because of the downed line, firefighters had to approach the house from a neighbor’s yard, removing a hedge with chainsaws in order to get to the home.
After Green Mountain Power workers cut power to the downed line, firefighters were able to approach from the front. The fire was contained within an hour. Even after extinguishing the blaze, firefighters remained on scene until nearly dawn today.
“We figured there was going to be some spot fires through the night,” said Cross. Firefighters from St. Albans City will continue to check on the site this morning, he added.
Town firefighters were joined at the scene by firefighters from the city and Swanton, AmCare Ambulance, the St. Albans Police Department and the American Red Cross. “Everyone worked very well together,” said Cross. “We were running the city’s equipment. The city was running our equipment.”
In addition, a fuel tank ruptured releasing 60 to 70 gallons of fuel oil. Using booms the firefighters were able to stop the oil from reaching the lake. The proper authorities were called and visited the site yesterday. Cleanup crews were expected this morning. “This is our lake and we’re trying to take care of it,” Cross said.
The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. “Right now we’re deeming it accidental,” said Cross.
The home at 617 Maquam Shore Rd. is likely a total loss.
Father Leonidas Laroche, a Roman Catholic priest and former pastor of St. Mary’s in St. Albans City, lived in an apartment in the house. He was not home at the time of the fire. Cross said the priest’s belongings should be salvageable, along with some of the Gagnes’ belongings on the second floor.