HARTFORD — Fire destroyed the Main Street farmhouse and barn of town historian Lorraine Parsons on Wednesday while she was tending her cows.
“In the three minutes that it took us to get on the scene, the fire had already spread from the barn to the house,” Deputy Chief Jason Vaughan of the Canton Fire Department said.
The losses were significant: Two buildings and all their contents, including a variety of historical artifacts, antique dolls, quilts and one made with ribbons she won for raising prize Angus cows, and her truck, a bulldozer and an antique car.
“She lost everything,” said Terry Marsters, who was driving from West Paris to Canton when she came upon the fire scene. “She only has the clothes on her back and her cows. She said, ‘I’m not leaving until I figure out what I’m doing with the cows.'”
A witness said Parsons, who is in her 80s, had been tending her cows when she discovered the fire.
When Marsters first arrived at the scene, a section of the barn was ablaze and flames were spreading to the red clapboard farmhouse.
“Just the back was on fire,” Marsters said. “There was smoke coming from underneath the roof of the house. While I was standing there, it spread.”
Marsters watched as fire crews struggled to keep the flames from devouring Parsons’ house.
“They were spraying water on the roof, they were spraying water on the windows, they were spraying water into the house,” Marsters said. “They were trying to save the house, but it was too fast.”
Marsters said she saw a power line fall across the road as the flames roared through the barn. About the same time, Parsons’ pickup truck burst into flames.
“She lost her truck, her bulldozer and she said she had an antique car in the barn,” Marsters said. “It’s very, very sad.”
Deputy Chief Jason Vaughan of the Canton Fire Department said Parsons was not injured in the 3:30 p.m. blaze, which started in the barn and spread to the rambling, 1½-story farmhouse.
Fire departments from eight towns responded.
Canton fire crews, Vaughan said, “ran the hoses until we ran out of water.”
“After that, West Paris Fire Department came in and set up a water station,” according to Vaughn.
Vaughan said a cause for the fire had not yet been determined.
The Fire Marshal’s Office has been called, he said, and investigators should be at the scene Wednesday night or Thursday morning,
Parsons, a former president of the Hartford Historical Society, is well known in the town for her commitment to its history. She is known to keep historical artifacts at her home.
The extent of her collection was not known Wednesday night, but it was doubtful any of it survived the blaze.
“That stuff is gone,” Marsters said. “It’s completely gone.”
Parsons has conducted extensive research into the town’s connection to the War of 1812 and other major conflicts.
She has organized efforts to have plaques and monuments erected honoring those from Hartford who served. These include the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and the Cold War.
Parsons has a son in Florida, Marsters said.
In the wake of the fire, she was being helped by those who live in the area.
“Her family,” Marsters said, “is her neighbors.”