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Hatfield house fire ruled accidental; help for family under way

  • Firefighters gather in front of a house at 9 Cronin Road in Hatfield after battling a fire that broke out early Tuesday evening on February 5, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Firefighters gather in front of a house at 9 Cronin Road in Hatfield after battling a fire that broke out early Tuesday evening on February 5, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Firefighters battle the blaze at 9 Cronin Road in Hatfield early Tuesday evening on February 5, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Firefighters battle the blaze at 9 Cronin Road in Hatfield early Tuesday evening on February 5, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Firefighters battle the blaze at 9 Cronin Road in Hatfield early Tuesday evening on February 5, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Firefighters battle the blaze at 9 Cronin Road in Hatfield early Tuesday evening on February 5, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Firefighters gather in front of a house at 9 Cronin Road in Hatfield after battling a fire that broke out early Tuesday evening on February 5, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Firefighters battle the blaze at 9 Cronin Road in Hatfield early Tuesday evening on February 5, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Firefighters battle the blaze at 9 Cronin Road in Hatfield early Tuesday evening on February 5, 2013. <br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

Homeowners Erik VanGeel and his wife, and their two children are staying with friends while their home is repaired. Officials estimate the fire caused about $50,000 worth of damage.

Trooper Joseph Gura, an investigator assigned to the state fire marshal’s office, ruled the fire accidental.

Belden said that VanGeel, a member of the Hatfield’s on-call volunteer fire department, had been working in his garage earlier in the afternoon.

“Apparently he was working on something that caused a spark and that lit some materials on fire,” Belden said. VanGeel was home when the fire broke and called 911.

According to Belden, another member of the Hatfield Fire Department, Firefighter Duane Meehan, lives two houses down from VanGeel and happened to be out in his yard when the fire broke out. His quick response made a significant difference to responding fire crews, Belden said.

“He actually went right to the scene and did what we call a ‘scene size up.’ The information that he was able to provide allowed everybody to know exactly what to expect when they arrived,” Belden said.

When firefighters arrived on the scene shortly after 4 p.m., they discovered the garage engulfed in flames, with the fire spreading to the kitchen and family room of the house, which is attached to the garage.

“The crews did a heck of job at that fire. They went right in the front door and pushed the fire right back,” Belden said.

The house is now uninhabitable. Fire crews from Northampton and Whately responded to the scene.

Support for the family can already be seen popping up around town.

Fran Frew, owner of the Hatfield Market on Prospect Street, has placed a container on his counter for donations to help the family recover from the fire.

“I don’t know the family and I don’t have to. This is a small town and we all try to pitch in when people need help,” Frew said. “I would want someone to help me if I needed it. It is just what you do.”

A donation jar is also front and center on the counter at the Hatfield Center Store on Main Street.

VanGeel, who according to Belden is a commercial pilot, was unavailable for comment.

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