‘Extremely Challenging': Crews Battle Billerica House Fire in Bitter Cold

Deputy fire chief says crews are having to deal with both frozen and buried fire hydrants

Crews battled a house fire in Billerica, Massachusetts, where the bitterly cold weather made for tough conditions.

Firefighters responded Monday night to the 2-alarm fire at 29 Andover Road around 6:59 p.m. after a passer-by reported smoke coming from the house.

Deputy Fire Chief Tom Ferraro says they were given a bad address and had trouble finding the house. Upon arrival, there was heavy fire showing in the back of the home.

Their biggest concern was getting water on the fire. They faced many challenges, even at one point hitting a hose with an axe in order to get it going.

"We've had an extremely hard time getting water," Ferraro said. "We have frozen hydrants, we have hydrants that have been buried. We actually have hydrants at the end of driveways that have been buried by private contractors... Public safety announcement, clear your hydrants, folks, this is what happens when they're buried."

When crews arrived, the fire hydrant across the street was covered in snow. Crews dug it out, but once they got to it, it was frozen shut, forcing crews to run hoses a block and a half away just to find water.

"The wind chill is obviously blowing the smoke and the water around," Ferraro said. "The icy conditions, we're gonna get the DPW up here soon with some five gallon buckets of sand obviously for traction for us to walk around the house. The raw wind and the cold are just making it extremely challenging for us, the frozen hydrants, the frozen snowbanks."

Neighbor Tammy Rasimowicz said, "We started packing up, getting ready to evacuate. So got our cat in the cat carrier. We didn't know what to do. The wind is blowing so hard we were watching the water freeze."

Ferraro said there were no firefighter injuries. He said it wasn't yet clear if anyone was inside the home at the time of the fire.

Neighbors say there is one man who lives in the house normally.

"We hope he's alright," a neighbor said.

Ferraro said this fire ranks up there for one of the coldest fires he has fought.

Billerica Fire Captain Joe Bukoiemski's fire helmet was covered in ice after working the scene.

Andover Road was closed between Boston Road and Pond Street due to the fire.

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