A Branford woman and her partner are safe following a two-alarm fire at their Hotchkiss Grove Road home. A family cat is believed to have perished during the incident. After investigation, Branford Fire Department Assistant Chief/Fire Marshal Shaun Heffernan was able to determine that the fire was started in the kitchen when the female resident of the home left a stove burner on after cooking and left the home for an appointment.
Branford’s was first to respond to the scene of the fire at 13 Hotchkiss Grove Road (near the intersection of Pine Orchard Road) at 11:37 a.m. this morning. Crews were alerted to the fire by neighbor Lauren Maher, 18, who noticed the flames and called 911 – a recent graduate, Maher was home from the College of Holy Cross on spring break.
Chief Jack Ahern said the blaze, which began in the kitchen, caused severe damage to the home and required the assistance of all Branford fire companies; remained in quarters and several ambulances were dispatched from headquarters for other emergencies during the incident while crews battled the fire. Guilford and East Haven fire departments were staging to assist Branford but were not needed.
Crews fought the blaze inside the home and were able to put out the fire in under 10 minutes Ahern reported.
The 1.5-story, white ranch was recently purchased by Jeanne Tahnk and her partner who asked not to be named. Tahnk said they have owned the home for less than one year.
As firefighters cut through the roof to let gas and smoke escape the structure, Tahnk looked on with tears in her eyes. “This is unbelievable,” she said over and over.
Tahnk said she had gone out for a one-hour pilates class and when she returned, smoke was pouring from her front door. Shortly after, fire crews began arriving to the home.
“This is a nightmare,” she said. “I don’t know what I am going to do next. We love this area.”
Tahnk was devastated over the loss of the family cat. "The material stuff is replaceable," she said. "The cat has been with him [her partner] for seven to eight years."
A competitive ballroom dancer, Tahnk said she was very exhausted from a weekend of competition and had no idea how the fire began in her home. Later Heffernan was able to determine that Tahnk had been using the stove for cooking and left a burner on before leaving her home at approximately 10:10 a.m. The burner ignited the home blaze.
Neighbor Cheryl Maher offered Tahnk and her partner temporary refuge and use of her home while crews finished putting out the fire and cleaning up the mess.
Ahern noted that no other residences were affected by the blaze. Connecticut Light & Power was present at the scene to disconnect the electricity to the home.