By Elaine Thompson
Telegram & Gazette
BOYLSTON, Mass. — Walter Karpowski said he and a friend had been in his home at his computer for 20 minutes after returning from having lunch when they thought they smelled smoke outside.
Suddenly, the fire alarms in his house went off, and the phone rang with a call from the alarm company telling him the water alarm in his basement had just gone off. He didn't find any water in his basement, but when he looked outside, he saw smoke filling the nearby woods. He said he grabbed the phone and called 911.
"I said, `There's smoke in the woods, and it's got to be close,'" Mr. Karpowski said. When he and his friend went back outside, they saw smoke coming out of the eaves of his home. He called 911 again about 2:15 p.m. to say it was his house at 478 Green St. on fire.
By the time firefighters arrived, flames were shooting through the roof. It took firefighters less than half an hour to bring the two-alarm fire under control, but in the end, an estimated $150,000 in damage had been done to the home, mostly to the second floor and attic, where the fire is suspected to have started.
Fire Chief Joseph P. Flanagan said the fire was possibly caused by an overheated fan or heat lamp in the upstairs bathroom.
Because town water does not extend to Green Street, fire departments from as far away as Holden trucked in water to extinguish the blaze. Other departments providing mutual aid included Shrewsbury, Berlin, Boylston, West Boylston, Bolton, Clinton and Sterling. About 30 firefighters were at the scene.
"The problem down here is there's no town water and no hydrant system to fight the fire. All these fire departments had to respond with water," said Todd Truex, who lives a quarter of a mile down Green Street. "I built a swimming pool at my house to use for that purpose if needed."
Chief Flanagan said firefighters never ran out of the water that was hauled in, so there was no need to pump water from the pool behind Mr. Karpowski's house.
Mr. Karpowski, retired from the computer industry, was in a good mood as he spoke to his insurance company on his cellphone outside his house. He said a lot of worse things could have happened. He said he was happy that no one, including his wife, Barbara, was injured. The couple had the home built 20 years ago. It has an assessed value between $600,000 and $700,000, he said.
"I just painted the damn house in the spring and put in new windows," he said with a chuckle. "This was bad timing for a fire. If it was going to happen, it should have happened before I put all that money into the house."
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