NORTH STONINGTON — Two cats remain unaccounted for and a barn on a residential property on Pendelton Hill Road was destroyed after a blaze tore through the one-story structure on Wednesday morning.

North Stonington firefighters and emergency responders were dispatched shortly before 9:30 a.m. to the home at 254 Pendleton Hill Road for reports of a fire that had erupted in an outdoor wood furnace.

The fire spread quickly through the barn, located about 100 feet from the house and across from the Babcock Road intersection. The building was fully engulfed in flames when a North Stonington engine with three-man crew arrived on the scene, according to North Stonington Fire Chief Charles Steinhart V.

"They arrived quickly, within five minutes of the initial call," Steinhart said. "It took us about 30 minutes to get under control with the help of mutual aid."

General alarms were sounded and the department received help from personnel with the Old Mystic, Ashaway, Wequetequock, Pawcatuck,  and Mashantucket fire departments. The Preston, Poquonnock Bridge and Center Groton fire departments were later dispatched as well. A nearby pond and several tankers were used to supply water to fight the fire.

The North Stonington Ambulance Association and American Paramedic provided medical coverage, although no injuries were reported. The Connecticut State Police and a resident state trooper were also on scene.

The plume of smoke was visible for miles, through much of North Stonington, south of Route 78 in Stonington, and even into Old Mystic.

"As soon as we turned onto (Route) 201, you could see the head billowing into the sky," said one of the Old Mystic firefighters as he stopped momentarily for a breather once the fire was extinguished. "We followed the smoke in."

Officials said they had not found evidence of any animals inside, although neighbors said the barn was home to two cats, which could get in or out through a special slot.

The fire, which is considered accidental, began in an outdoor wood-based system that had long been used to warm the barn area.

According to North Stonington town records, the 1.31 acre property is owned by Stephen and Brandy Lenihan and was last purchased in 2010. The home was built in 1968, although it was unclear how old the barn was.

Residents at the home confirmed the missing cats, but declined further comment.

Steinhart credited his staff and mutual aid, nearly all volunteers, for helping to contain and extinguish the blaze so quickly. Although the cold weather presented a challenge, there were no other serious issues, and the wind was down, compared with the previous few days.

"If the cold is all we have to worry about, I'll take it," he said.

jvallee@thewesterlysun.com

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