The exact cause of an early Saturday morning fire that nearly wiped out an entire family in rural western Massachusetts is not yet confirmed. Investigators said the blaze in a single family home on a dirt road deep in Warwick could have started at a wood stove in the kitchen. It appears to be accidental.
On Sunday, residents turned out to mourn the loss of a mother who was active in town activities, and her four children.
While authorities have not identified the victims of the fire by name, everyone in this small town knows whose house burned down, and many know the family personally. The father — Scott Seago — survived the blaze, along with one child.
They were among the crowd at the elementary school in Warwick Sunday afternoon, along with at least 100 others — a large portion of this town of just 800 residents.
State Senate President Stan Rosenberg from Amherst was here, as was state Representative Susannah Whipps, who lives in nearby Athol. On her way out, Whipps said most of the towns in her district are small, like Warwick. And people really look out for each other.
“You have to when you live out here,” Whipps said. “I mean, we’re in a community with virtually no broadband service, [a] small school. It’s a beautiful place to live. It’s a quiet place to live. It’s a true village.”
Warwick is right at the New Hampshire border, one of several sparsely populated towns with a lot of land in what’s called the North Quabbin region. Fire departments from all around show up to help out, as they did Saturday. But the blaze had consumed the house by the time they arrived.
Whipps said a woman who was inside the school sold the Seagos their home a few years ago. She lives nearby, and she brought pictures over. This family has lost everything, Whipps said.
“Everybody comes together, and everybody’s hurting,” she said.
One Warwick resident who came out of the school said he worked with Scott Seago on the town’s broadband committee. Another was a substitute teacher at the elementary school, and knew the kids. But almost no one wanted to speak with the media.
David Young, the town coordinator in Warwick, would talk — a little. Standing outside the school, after almost everyone left, he said the event was helpful. For him, uplifting.
“A lot of people from the community turned out. We’re trying to figure out what to do next. I know the school is pretty well prepared for helping the kids through this [Monday],” Young said.
But Young on Sunday didn’t mention the family by name. He said he can’t, until the district attorney releases that information. But as an official, he said, he knew the family well. He described the mother, Lucinda Seago, whose name is on the town website, as business-like.
“Very much on top of things. Competent and smart, and a member of our Board of Health,” he said. And she had recently completed her degree to become a registered nurse.
Like their parents, Young said, the kids are incredibly bright. He said he he thinks they range from ages 6 to 15.
“I felt terrible for the surviving child who was here, in our midst,” Young said. “She held up well by all appearances, but I can’t imagine…I can’t imagine…” he trailed off.
Inside the school, after the politicians spoke, Young said people sat around talking to each other. A couple of residents who worked on the broadband committee left early to buy Scott Seago a new cellphone.
Where the house stood is now a mound of burned debris, with nearby cars licked by flames. There are no hydrants in Warwick, Young said. There are “fire ponds.” That’s part of rural life, he said.