ESSEX — A fire significantly damaged a barn on Western Avenue early Sunday morning.

"The homeowners heard a crackling, popping noise, looked over and saw the glow," fire Chief Daniel Doucette. They reported a shed fire near the home at 47 Western Ave. at 2:43 a.m.

Firefighters found a 20- by 40-barn with heavy fire showing from the structure. Doucette said about 16 firefighters responded with the department's engine, ladder and ambulance. Apparatus from Hamilton, Manchester and Ipswich provided station coverage.

"The fire was knocked down in about 10, 15 minutes, preventing any extension to the house," the chief said. Firefighters remained on scene for about three hours, cleaning up, and assisting the state Fire Marshal's Office in determining a cause. 

"The cause of fire is still under investigation but was accidental, likely electrical in nature," Doucette said.

The family was allowed back in the house, built in 1860 according to town records, after the fire.

Because a hydrant was used as water source by firefighters, neighbors are warned that the potential for discolored water Sunday morning exists. Running cold water for a period of time should resolve issue.

Andrea Holbrook may be contacted at 978-675-2713 or aholbrook@gloucestertimes.com.