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Groton — The quick thinking and actions of neighbors and town employees helped an older couple safely escape a fire that severely damaged their home at 392 Noank Road Tuesday morning.
No injuries were reported in the fire at the home of Thomas and Carol Benoit.
Jennifer Zingus and her husband, Chris, who live across the street, were about to leave for work around 9 a.m. when they saw thick, black smoke shooting from the Benoits’ house.
“Chris was heading out first to work when he immediately ran back inside to tell me that the house was on fire, and that’s when he darted back across the street to see if they were OK,” Jennifer Zingus said. “Tom and Carol were trapped on the deck and Tom yelled the garage code to Chris so they could get out of the house that way.”
Thomas Benoit walked back into the house and then was able to escape the house through the garage.
“When I saw him go inside, I didn’t know what to think because the house was fully engulfed in flames,” Jennifer Zingus said.
Jacob Johnson and Chris Newbury, who both work in maintenance for the Parks and Recreation department, helped get Carol Benoit down from the deck, which is above a first-floor section of the home.
Johnson said he and Newbury were going to the Mystic Market to get coffee when they noticed the fire. They quickly ran to the house and saw the couple standing on the deck.
Johnson said Carol Benoit was “just standing there in pure shock.”
He said another man, whom they did not know, jumped over the 4-foot deck fence and carried Carol Benoit to them, at which point they carried her to safety.
“She was just 10 feet away from the fire,” said Johnson. “Who knows what would have happened if we hadn’t showed up.”
The two-story colonial house is located near the Mystic Market and Grossman’s Fish and Meat Market.
Jane Francis, who lives next door to the Benoits, said she was sitting at her kitchen table when she saw the back of her neighbors’ house on fire.
“I saw some flames and then I saw that the entire back of the house was on fire,” she said. “I called 911 immediately.”
After being rescued, Thomas and Carol Benoit and their dog sat inside a car in Francis’ driveway. Thomas Benoit, who was just in a T-shirt and boxers, put on a pair of flannel pants that Francis offered him. He was barefoot.
Neighbors said the couple were in shock and didn’t want to talk to a reporter.
Mystic Fire Chief Frank “Fritz” Hilbert said when firefighters arrived at the scene, there was heavy smoke and flames coming from the rear of the house, behind the kitchen. He said that part of the home was destroyed by the fire while the second floor, also in the rear, sustained extensive heat and water damage.
Firefighters used chainsaws and axes to cut through the roof and ventilate the house. A small flame kept poking through the roof line; a firefighter ripped the shingles with his hands while another firefighter doused the flame.
In addition to Mystic, the Old Mystic department and the Naval Submarine Base Fast Team also responded to the scene. Groton Ambulance and Lawrence + Memorial paramedics were on standby.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.