Jerry Capozzoli sat in the driver’s seat of a camper as two of his brothers stood outside, looking at the engine.
He put the keys in, started it up and heard a loud backfire. Then, smoke began pouring out from under the hood and the 29-foot camper caught fire.
Capozzoli ran to grab a fire extinguisher, but it was already too late.
“Boy, we went to get it, and by the time we got back, the thing was up in flames,” Capozzoli told The Enterprise. “There’s a propane tank in there, so I didn’t want to take any chances.”
They called 911 about 11 a.m. Wednesday and firefighters from both stations in town quickly responded to C & J Auto Body, located at 1264 Washington St.
“We could see it from miles away, in the center,” said fire Capt. Brad Newbury, the incident commander. “Upon arrival, we had heavy fire and smoke showing.”
Firefighters quickly stretched a hose across Route 138 as police shut down a half-mile stretch of Washington Street, from Morton to Plain streets.
Newbury said firefighters also wanted to shut down the road because of the propane tank inside the motorhome, and the slight possibility of an explosion.
“It took us about 15 minutes to knock the bulk of the fire down,” Newbury said.
Next to the camper, an old pickup truck also caught fire.
Firefighters remained on scene for close to two hours. After the bulk of the fire was extinguished, Capozzoli used a backhoe to help firefighters by moving the pile around to put out any smoke.
By the end, all that remained was a charred pile of debris.
Capozzoli’s cousin owned the trailer, but died in November and it’s been sitting in his lot since then. He wanted to try to start it up on Wednesday to see if the 454 engine was still good.
“The flames were high,” Capozzoli said. “We got out quick.”
The portion of Washington Street remained closed until about 12:45 p.m. Newbury said the origin and cause of the fire are still being investigated.
“The fire was deep-seated, because of the amount of debris that was there,” Newbury said. “The firefighters did strong work. They got in and knocked it down and then we overhauled it.”
In his 52 years in business, Capozzoli said Wednesday’s fire was his first.
“The only thing I lost was my dignity,” he said. “Hopefully the engine is still good.”
We would like to thank The Enterprise for permission to reprint this article.