A historic building on the Plymouth State University campus was saved from serious damage Friday, Oct. 20, after an apparent lightning strike started a fire. A barn adjoining the Holmes House was hit just before 5 p.m. when a violent electrical storm moved through the region. University Police Lt. Pete Chierichetti arrived at Holmes a few minutes later to unlock a basement room, and after entering the building, he smelled smoke and noticed emergency lights on. Chierichetti, a volunteer firefighter in Wentworth, investigated the source of the smoke and found it coming from the attic area.
“I noticed smoke coming out of the eaves on the front of the building, so I immediately called the Plymouth Fire Department,” said Chierichetti.
The Plymouth Fire Department responded immediately and extinguished the blaze within 10 minutes, saving the structure from more serious damage. Damage was limited to a barn wall and interior hallway and is estimated at $10,000, according to the Plymouth Fire Department.
Chierichetti’s quick response is credited with keeping the damage to a minimum.
“I was just doing what I normally do, and with my training as a volunteer firefighter, it was
obvious there was a problem in the building,” Chierichetti said.
“We were very lucky, very fortunate that a police officer was there to call it in,” said Capt. John Olmstead of the Plymouth Fire Department.
PSU officials praised the Plymouth Fire Department’s rapid response and aggressive attack of the fire.
“We are grateful to the Plymouth Fire Department for their fast response and effective work in putting the fire out. Older buildings can go up very quickly, and we are pleased that no one was hurt and the damage was kept to a minimum” said PSU President Sara Jayne Steen.
The Holmes House has a long and rich association with Plymouth’s various academic institutions. The 170 year-old structure once served as faculty housing for Holmes Plymouth Academy, the forerunner of Plymouth Teachers College. Dr. Ernest Silver, the eighth president of Plymouth Teachers College, lived in the house from 1944-49. The house was purchased by the University System of New Hampshire in 1989 from Dr. Silver’s 101 year-old widow, Gertrude Shaw Silver. It has been used for residential life staff offices since then.
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