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Cummington rallies for local fire victims

Fire officials meanwhile, believe the fire that gutted the Stage Road cabin was a chimney fire.

Homeowner Eric Driver, owner of Sustainable Builders in Cummington, said he grew up on the property. The family’s loss is amplified by the fact that the home was not insured.

He and Monica Driver and their infant daughter were not home when the fire broke out. Three family pets, a dog and two cats, were killed in the fire, though no people were injured.

“We are definitely going to rebuild,” said Eric Driver. “I grew up on that land, it was my grandfather’s farm.”

The Drivers maintain a herd of Highland cattle on the property, none of which were injured in the fire.

“We are going to be OK. We are staying with family in Amherst and I know that the community is planning a benefit to help,” he said. “This community is amazing.”

Cummington Fire Chief Bernie Forgea said that while it would be difficult to give an definitive answer as to what caused the fire, strong circumstantial evidence indicates that the fire started in the chimney and quickly spread throughout the rest of the home.

Forgea said he has carefully gone over the scene trying to uncover any bits of evidence that might lead him to an answer.

“When you put all of the pieces together and look at the condition of the chimney, the evidence, as I see it, points to a chimney fire. I did not see anything else that could have caused the fire,” Forgea said.

Neighbor Kimberly Wachtel was one of the first people to spot the fire.

“I was driving down the street when I saw the fire, and the house was fully engulfed,” Wachtel said. “I was pretty shaken up and I was very happy to see that their car was not there.”

Reported just after 7 p.m., firefighters from Cummington, Ashfield, Chesterfield, Goshen, Plainfield, Windsor and Worthington responded to the scene. Those coming in from Plainfield reported that they could see the glow of the fire from Central Street in that town, 6 miles away.

By the time firefighters arrived, the home was completely engulfed in flames. Deep snow from the storm that hit the Valley Friday night hindered firefighters’ work in extinguishing the blaze.

Wachtel said three funds have been set up to assist the family as it recovers from its loss.

“A rebuild fund has been set up at the Cummington Supply Store under ‘Eric Driver,’” Wachtel said. There is also a Driver Family Fund at Florence Savings Bank in Amherst, she said.

Wachtel said the Family Center in Cummington is also putting together a library to replace the one the Drivers had started for their 6-month-old daughter.

Anyone who would like to make a donation to the Driver family can do so at one of the following locations: to the Driver Rebuild Fund at Cummington Supply, 18 Main St., Cummington, 634-8868 or to the Driver Family Fund at any branch of the Florence Savings Bank. Books for the family can be dropped off at the Cummington Family Center at the Community House, 33 Main St., Cummington.

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