UPDATED, 8:40 a.m.: Fire Chief John Touhey said he expected officials would be at the scene of a three-alarm fire through at least noon Saturday, as crews continued to hose down the rubble and heavy equipment was brought to the scene to remove the destroyed house.
"This was a very quick collapse," Touhey said, citing the fact that the fire was going strong by the time the first engine arrived, and efforts to obtain an adequate water supply were complicated by the age and location of the nearby hydrants. The Bellingham and Hopedale fire departments helped Milford attack the blaze.
The Fire Department responded sometime after 4:30 a.m. Saturday to 13 Dominick St., a single-family, two-story wood frame home in a tight neighborhood off Route 16.
“It was a defensive operation right from the beginning,” Touhey said, noting the fire was already heavy and through the roof when firefighters arrived.
Initially, firefighters were unsure if there was anyone in the house: soon, they determined that the family was at Wachusett Mountain for an overnight skiing trip.
Daniel Ribeiro, owner and resident of the home, was contacted and returned around 8 a.m. with his son.
Once firefighters learned there was no one in the house, their primary objective became shielding neighboring houses from the damage.
Exterior damage could be seen at 11, 15, and 17 Dominick St. Residents of those homes were evacuated early Saturday morning but allowed to return once the fire had died down.
Michael Rivera, 17, of 17 Dominick St., said he woke up this morning, looked out his window and saw the fire.
“It was the whole thing,” Rivera said. “It was scary.”
Damage was done to the siding at the top of Rivera’s house. A Toyota Avalon belonging to his friend and neighbor, 20-year-old Shaira Lavandier, 20, of 11 Dominick St., was heavily damaged.
The fire chief noted there was damage to nearly a handful of vehicles in neighboring driveways.
With the house destroyed and burned to the ground, firefighters Saturday morning continued to water down the rubble. Touhey said the gas company would be coming to dig a hole to shut off the gas supply to the house; as there was no other access to the line.
Heavy equipment was being brought in after 8 a.m. to remove the debris. Touhey said the cause of the fire is being investigated by the state Fire Marshal's office.
The family is displaced: Red Cross was on scene.