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Polaroid Chairman Saved From NH Fire

By Michael Rosenfield, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Michael Rosenfield Michael Rosenfield
Michael Rosenfield is the New Hampshire Bureau Chief for CBS Boston’s...
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STRAFFORD, N.H. (CBS) — Little is left of a multi-million dollar home owned by Polaroid Chairman and philanthropist Robert Sager, who knows he’s lucky to be alive after flames engulfed his house.

“I opened the door to my bedroom and I was knocked backwards by the heat and the smoke,” Sager told WBZ-TV. “I was actually knocked to the floor.”

Sager’s two adult children and a house guest escaped but Sager was trapped on the second floor.

His daughter called property manager Jason DiVirgilio who raced to the scene.

“I looked up and Bobby was trapped on the second floor porch,” said DiVirgilio. “He was in the fire. He had no way of getting out at all. Instantly I told him ‘you got to jump, you have to jump’. He wouldn’t do it. It was absolutely terrifying, absolutely terrifying, seeing the man that fearful for his life.”

Sager says he thought he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life if he jumped.

“I was going to have to take a running start and jump away from the building to both clear the flames and clear the rocks that were right underneath,” said Sager.

DeVirgilio, who works for Whitcher Builders which built the home, grabbed a ladder.

“It was pretty hairy for him to be able to get to the extension ladder,” said DeVirgilio. “He had to crawl through some fire on his hands and knees to get down the ladder.”

The Sager residence is the only house on Long Island which is in the middle of Bow Lake in Strafford, New Hampshire.

Fire trucks cannot cross the frozen lake, and firefighters had to let the home burn down. There was no sprinkler system in the house.

“So we did put portable pumps out there,” said Strafford Fire Captain David Hartranft. “Drilled a hole through the ice, about 22 inches thick and tried to attempt to pump water to the different areas to put out the spot fires.”

The house—with glass walls and everything custom-built–is a total loss.

“I almost died and I feel like the luckiest guy in the world,” said Sager.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Firefighters say it is possible it started in the fireplace which was operating Friday night.

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