MONTGOMERY — An engulfing fire in Montgomery destroyed an inn and claimed the life of its co-owner over the weekend. The other co-owner and wife of the deceased was treated for smoke inhalation, according to officials.
According to Vermont State Police reports, a report of a fire at the English Rose Inn came into the Derby Public Safety Answering Point at 3:16 p.m. on Friday. The Montgomery, Troy and Jay Fire Departments were dispatched to 196 Route 242, where firefighters found the structure in flames.
Richford, Enosburgh, Berkshire and Troy fire departments also responded to the scene. According to Montgomery Fire Department Chief William Baker Sr., firefighters were on scene until 2:30 a.m. Saturday
“It just burned everything to the ground,” said Baker.
Extreme cold, frozen hydrants in the nearby town, water lines freezing at the scene, and searching for a person believed to be inside the burning inn complicated matters for firefighters.
“We was trying to get the victim out of the house before venting it,” said Baker this morning. “Then we couldn’t find him.”
He added, “It was 10 below zero.”
While one person was believed to be inside the structure, two people escaped. One was uninjured while the other was transported by Missisquoi Valley Ambulance to North Country Hospital for smoke inhalation and minor burns.
No guests were staying at the inn at the time of the fire, said police.
As Vermont State Police Detectives sifted through the inn’s remains the following day, they discovered a body in the basement area of the inn around 4 p.m. The body is believed to be that of Gary Bouchard-Pike, the co-owner.
The body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Office for an autopsy.
Vermont State Police Fire Investigation Unit and Bureau of Criminal Investigations responded to the scene to determine the origin and cause of the fire. Witnesses stated to investigators that Bouchard-Pike was thawing out frozen pipes when the fire started.
According to Baker, Bouchard-Pike was attempting to thaw the pipes with a blowtorch when the fire started. He allegedly tried to put out the fire with one extinguisher, was unsuccessful, and his wife, Mary Jane, tried to help Pike-Bouchard out of the fire but was overcome by smoke and was unable to drag her husband out.
The English Rose Inn, added Baker, has been in Montgomery for about
50 years. The inn is described on its website as a renovated 1850s farmhouse with Victorian country charm and 14 rooms.
Baker said inn fires are uncommon, especially fires so severe as Friday’s.
“I’ve been in the fire department 50 years, this is the first time I’ve seen something like this happen,” he said.
The inn community in the area – which is robust due to Jay Peak being a nearby winter destination – is experiencing shock at the fire as well. According to The INN co-owner Nick Barletta, Montgomery’s business community and area as a whole has The English Rose and the Pike-Bouchards in mind.
“The community is in mourning,” he said.
The investigation continues to be ongoing, though it’s believed that the fire was accidental.