MADISON — A Madison Avenue family lost their home and belongings early Friday in a fire fought in sub-zero temperatures by six area fire departments.

No one was injured in the blaze that ripped through the second story of Bill and Betty Perry’s home about 3:15 a.m., collapsing part of the upstairs into the lower level.

“It was fire coming down from upstairs; coming from the ceiling down — big black and orange smoke,” said the Perrys’ son, Michael Williams, who lives next door. “I tried to put it out with water that was on the stove, but I couldn’t do it. I’ve got a few burns here and there. It was wicked cold.”

The metal roof kept the fire “like an oven” inside the building, Madison Fire Chief Roger Lightbody Sr. said.

Overnight temperatures in the area were in the single digits above zero, with a wind chill of minus 4, according to meteorologist Chris Kimble at the National Weather Service office in Gray.

Lightbody said wet firefighters’ gear froze solid in the cold and had to be changed.


“Ice on the ground was the big problem, walking around, that was terrible,” he said “The gauges on the trucks froze up, but they still could pump. We had good operators on there so they knew what they were doing.”

The State Fire Marshal’s Office said faulty electrical wiring in the attic caused the fire.

Betty Perry said she, her husband and a house guest were asleep when the fire started, but the smell of smoke woke her and she yelled at the others inside to leave. The friend, Michelle Jacques, brought Bill and Betty Perry next door to their son’s home and he made the call reporting the fire.

The Perrys’ daughter, Becky Williams, who lives on Shusta Road, was told of the fire in a telephone call from her brother.

“It was scary,” Williams said. “It was pretty bad with lots and lots and lots of smoke.”

She said her father grew up in the house and she lived there with her son Cole until last year.


“The Fire Department was amazing,” she said. “They were fighting the fire and taking family pictures off the wall for us. I lost all of my stuff upstairs.”

She said her parents will stay with her brother next door until a mobile home is in place in the spring.

The homeowners were not insured. Three dogs were saved and a small cat was still missing by late morning.

The American Red Cross will assist the family, Lightbody said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
[email protected]

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