Montville — An Oakdale family had mere seconds early this morning to escape a fire that destroyed their home at 19 John W. Luty Drive.
Karl Butzgy said his daughter screamed around 5:30 a.m., alerting the family that there was a fire outside the front of the house.
Butzgy said the family attempted to escape through the front door, but flames were already enveloping that side of the house.
"We went around through the kitchen and escaped through the garage," said Butzgy. "Just as we did, the ceiling started to collapse."
Butzgy said his wife, their three children and two dogs managed to safely escape.
He said it appeared the fire started somewhere outside, in the front porch area.
His wife, Danielle, stared at the house in utter shock, saying the family escaped with just the clothes on their backs.
Danielle Butzgy, who is co-owner of Pa's Pizza and General Store in town, said at one point firefighters had the fire under control, but they ran out of water. She said it took what felt like 20 minutes for the water to get going again, but by then it was too late. The house was consumed by flames.
"I know we live in a rural area," she said. "There has to be a better system in place. The whole bottom floor was still standing, but they ran out of water and now it's gone. It's all gone."
The entire two floors on the left side of the house were burnt to the ground. All that remained was a shell of a garage.
Bill Clark, who lives across the street, said he, too, had thought for a while that the fire was out.
"You could see water just sputtering from the ladder truck," said Clark. "The fire just lit up the whole neighborhood. The firefighters did the best that they could. There just aren't any hydrants in the neighborhood."
Acting Oakdale Fire Chief Bryce Wilkens said fire trucks have some water, but a tanker shuttle system had to be set up to bring water from Oxoboxo Lake. All the town's fire departments, in addition to neighboring towns as far as Colchester and Bozrah, provided assistance. He said eight tankers were bringing water.
"The fire was never out," said Wilkens. "The water pushed back the flames, but there was fire inside the house and in the rear."
Wilkens said when crews got to the scene, fire had already engulfed the front of the house and was extending through the roof.
He said there was also ammunition popping, so he had to keep firefighters at a safe distance.
Wilkens said it took 45 minutes to get the fire under control.
Fire Marshal Raymond Occhialini, who lives nearby, called in the fire.
He let out his puppy at 5:30 a.m. when he saw smoke and heard crackling noises in the distance.
"I got in my truck to check it out and saw that it was a fire and called it in on my radio," said Occhialini. He also called the state fire marshal to assist with the investigation.
The American Red Cross was called in to assist the family.
Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel Jr. said he would look into Danielle Butzgy's belief that there was inadequate water to fight the fire.
"After each fire, we go over the incident to see what could have been done different," said McDaniel. "The problem with this development is that there is no water supply."