IPSWICH — A two-alarm fire destroyed a home on Stagehill Road early Tuesday morning, though it remains unclear what role an exterior propane tank played in the blaze.
Crews from Essex, Manchester, Rowley, Topsfield and Wenham helped knock down the fire after nearly three hours. The first calls — and there were several — came in around 1 a.m., said Ipswich fire Deputy Chief Lee Prentiss.
The calls reported the fire as on Capeview Road — the flames were largely confined to the left and rear of 25 Stagehill Road, visible by callers on Capeview, Prentiss said. Neither of the Stagehill Road house's two residents were home at the time.
When crews first arrived, they saw a large fireball at the back of the home caused by a 120-pound propane tank. It had heated up during the fire, prompting a pressure release valve to dump pressure from the tank to prevent an explosion, Prentiss said.
"Crews immediately deployed a hand line to cool down the tank and proceeded to attack the fire on the B (left) side and the C (rear) side of the building," Prentiss said. "Once more manpower arrived, we attempted to do an interior attack. This fire already started to involve the first and second floors."
Crews then opened up the home's roof, at which point "the fire overtook the roof and we ended up pulling members out, and we went into a defensive attack."
Firefighters had extinguished the blaze by 3:45 a.m., Prentiss said. In addition to mutual aid at the scene, trucks from Beverly, Boxford and Hamilton provided station coverage.
A house to one side of the damaged home had some minor exterior damage — mostly melted siding — because of the heat from the fire and the role the propane tank played, according to Prentiss.
"When the pressure release valve released on the propane tank, that's when people were awoken by the fire," Prentiss said. "The release valve is set at a certain pressure, usually around 250 pounds per square inch. ... The downfall of it is if it releases gas, you get the fireball from the release valve."
The fire remains under investigation. Prentiss said no specific cause has been identified as of Tuesday afternoon.