WATERTOWN — A chicken coop and shed were destroyed after they caught fire Friday morning just feet from a house on Hunt Street, which avoided structural damage thanks to a passerby and the fire departments’ response.

At around 4:30 a.m., a man was driving down Hunt Street when he witnessed a fire at Tom Peterson’s house. Mr. Peterson, and everyone inside, were asleep at the time, unaware the shed, chicken coop and trees around them were fully engulfed in flames. The passerby started banging on the door and windows.

“Our front door was locked,” Mr. Peterson said. “He was ready to knock down the door in order to get in to make sure everybody was out.”

The Town of Watertown Fire Department was the first to respond — Mr. Peterson said their concern was the fire reaching the house. More fire departments responded with assistance, and the blaze was contained rather quickly. Mr. Peterson said there was a heating lamp inside the coop, powered by an extension cord coming from the house. He assumes that was the cause of the fire.

The shed and chicken coop were burned to the ground, but the house went nearly unharmed considering how close it was to the blaze. Mr. Peterson said the door and windows on the side of the house would likely need to be replaced, and the siding was melted, but overall firefighters were able to save their home. “We’re very, very lucky,” he said.

There were seven chickens in the coop, three of which escaped and are alive.

“We found them in the backyard,” Mr. Peterson said. “We don’t know how they got out of the burning chicken coop.”

Michael Shecton, who also lives in the house, said the shed was built this year. There were three lawn mowers inside, a snow blower, a chain saw, tools and two full gas cans.

“I was worried about the gas cans exploding,” Mr. Shecton said.

Mr. Shecton said he was thankful for the passerby who stopped to alert everyone inside.

“I shook his hand and said thank you,” Mr. Shecton said. “If it had been even 10 minutes later, who knows what could have happened.”

The three surviving chickens are being held in a nearby coop until the family can figure out what needs to be done with them.

“That coop isn’t exactly suitable for winter,” he said. “That’s why we had this structure. I don’t know if they were injured in the fire. They sound like they’re breathing hard, so I don’t know what the humane thing to do is. We’re just trying to take it step by step.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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