AMHERST - An early morning fire killed 20 baby chicks and significantly damaged a restored antique farmhouse early Tuesday morning on Smith Lane.
The fire broke out around 3:40 a.m. at the residence at 1 Smith Lane. The occupants of the home were alerted by smoke detectors, according to Amherst Fire Chief Mark Boynton.
Some passing motorists also noticed smoke and flames coming from the rear of the home and called authorities, said Boynton. When fire crews arrived, an outside chicken coop was fully involved, and the fire was beginning to spread to the residential structure, said the chief.
A second alarm was initiated as fire crews from Amherst and nearby communities attempted to minimize fire damage to the residence. No one was injured in the blaze, and the five occupants escaped unharmed, said Boynton.
"There is considerable damage," Boynton said of two rear bedrooms on the first and second floors of the 1870's home. "And there is smoke damage throughout the house."
At this point, the fire has been classified as accidental, although the exact cause is still undetermined, said fire officials. Boynton said the blaze is probably related to a heating lamp being used to warm 20 new baby chicks that were caged inside of the chicken coop.
"The homeowners had just gotten the chicks," said Boynton, adding there were no hens or roosters inside the coop at the time of the fire.
Boynton commended firefighters for successfully knocking down the fire in about 40 minutes, saying crews did a good job containing the fire to the back of the home. Although the residents will temporarily be displaced, he said the home is salvageable.
The American Red Cross responded to the scene to provide assistance, but Boynton said the occupants have already located an alternative place to live.
Assisting at the scene were firefighters from Amherst, Brookline, Hollis, Milford, Mont Vernon and Wilton.