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Fire consumes van - GFD - 09/24/2008


Van fire destroys vehicle; specialized equipment saved


Photos by Sue Tracy and used with permission

GOSHEN - After celebrating a successful 2008 Kayak-a-thon, Karen Foster and Sue Tracy of All Out Adventures  were returning a trailer full of watercraft back to the Daughter’s of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) State Park in Goshen.  The kayaks had been used in their group’s annual fundraiser a few weekends earlier on the Connecticut River.  During the event, almost 50 participants navigated their way from Sunderland to Northampton in 23 kayaks and 2 canoes.  Memories of that event were still fresh in their minds as they drove their company van through Williamsburg when they first noticed a smell of smoke.

Their initial thought was that people must have been burning leaves.

As they made their way up the hill into Goshen, the smell of smoke persisted.  Was everyone burning leaves?  When Karen turned the van onto Route 112, she heard a ‘pop’ from under the hood and noticed that the van was losing power.  When she pulled off the road to investigate, she noticed smoke coming from under the hood.  She knew that it was more than just an overheated motor when she saw the black smoke and bits of soot rising from the front grill.

Without hesitation, both Karen and Sue jumped out of the van and called 911.  Several cars passed by without stopping.  One Good Samaritan did stop and offered the use of a fire extinguisher to put out the flames but it was too late.  The engine compartment was fully involved.

Goshen Fire and Police were dispatched at approximately 12:36 p.m.  Initial reports indicated that a car was on fire on Route 112 in front of the D.A.R. State Park.  Deputy Chief Rick Clark was first on scene and initiated incident command.  He reported that the heat from the engine fire had shattered the front windshield and caused the tires to deflate moments before fire apparatus arrived on scene.  This allowed him to open the rear doors to allow the flames to vent forward and away from the interior of the van due the prevailing wind.  During this time, there was a series of small explosions from containers inside the engine compartment.

Firefighter Bill Nugent arrived on scene with 56-R1 – Goshen’s rescue truck.  His initial report indicated that the engine compartment was heavily involved with fire that was starting to extend to the passenger compartment.  Goshen Police Chief Jeff Hewes was providing traffic control at the scene and kept bystanders and the occupants of the vehicle safely away from danger.

Goshen Engine (56-E1) was manned by Phil Judd and Jonathan Schwaiger.  Together, they deployed a hose line and attacked the fire from the left front diagonal.  While Deputy Chief Rick Clark was running the pumper he instructed Firefighter Bill Nugent to don an air pack and once the fire was knocked down to go on air and salvage what he could from the rear of the van.  He was able to remove two specialty bicycles and several boxes of parts.  He then opened up the side cargo door and front passenger door and proceeded to overhaul the areas looking for extension.  The interior of the passenger door was heavily damaged and it appeared to be melted.  The floor mat on the passenger side was intact with no signs of extension.

According to Karen Foster, Executive Director of All Out Adventures , her group is a nonprofit organization based in Easthampton that was founded in 2001.  They provide outdoor recreation programs for people with disabilities and their family and friends.  Their participants are of all ages and represent people with cognitive, physical, and psychiatric disabilities.  They operate programs throughout Massachusetts, from the Berkshires to Boston.  Their programs include kayaking, canoeing, cycling, x-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating, camping, hiking, geocaching, and letterboxing.  In all, they run about 120 programs each year, serving over 2,000 participants.

The van had served All Out Adventures well for almost the entire 7 years of the organization's existence, hauling incredible amounts of gear and towing the kayak trailer all over Massachusetts.  It was well maintained and gave no indications of any problem, until it caught fire, according to Karen.

While All Out Adventures carried insurance for both the van and the equipment that was inside, they must pay the deductible and purchase a newer van that will be far more expensive than their insurance settlement.  As a result, the group is asking people who can contribute toward the cost of replacing their van to click here.  This link will bring you to JustGive.org where you can designate your donation for van/equipment replacement.   

Click here to learn more about All Out Adventures.

(Wednesday, September 24th, 2008)