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Wood shop burns during storm

Lancaster firefighters rushed to the scene as the wood shop on 44 Depot St. became an inferno on Dec. 9. (Photo by Jonathan Benton) (click for larger version)
December 16, 2009
LANCASTER— In a week full of snow, wind and power outages, a blazing fire was the last thing that the owner of 44 Depot St. needed. On Wednesday Dec. 9, his simple wood furniture shop was reduced to ashes.

Owner Paul Richardson said he had left his shop for lunch around 1 p.m. with his wood stove going and when he returned about an hour later the building was in flames.

"I opened up the front door and the whole thing was full of smoke," said Mr. Richardson, "So I went running down the back and the whole back was on fire."

State Fire Marshall Stacey Dubois has labeled the fire "non-confirmed, but non-suspicious." She did say that the fire appeared to have originated back in the farthest room in shop where a wood stove had been in use.

According to Mr. Richardson, the fire was a combination of strong winds and an active wood stove. He believes that the wind blew the stove pipe off the shop's roof before blowing sparks into the shop.

The fire burned bright and hot, fueled by the old timber holding the building together and all of the wood furniture contained within, resulting in a total loss. "It was reminiscent of a barn fire," said Lancaster Fire Lt. Mike Kopp.

Mr. Richardson has estimated $50,000 worth of damages to the shop and said that he does not have any insurance to cover it.

The Lancaster Fire Department responded to the call at 2:15 p.m., followed shortly by Groveton, Jefferson, Lunenburg, Whitefield and Dalton departments. Soon after arriving crews realized that going into the fiery structure was too risky, according to Lt. Kopp. This was due to the near lack of ventilation in a building with a metal roof and a large section with concrete walls and no windows.

The main assault was focused outside as water was pumped through the few windows available and any exposed areas. Sometimes water has be brought in by the tank load to handle big fires such as this, but the firemen were able to do the job utilizing town water from two nearby fire hydrants.

"A tip of hat to mutual aid," said Lt. Kopp, "The manpower assembled that time of day from other towns made the day go pretty smooth."

There were over half a dozen emergency vehicles crowding the little street including pump trucks, a ladder truck and an ambulance, to stop the fire before it reached any adjacent houses. Fire crews were also assisted by town highway and water crews and Public Service of NH as the power connected to the building was still hot.

It wasn't until 6:30 p.m. that the fire was put out and the firemen could take a break. The LFD came back at 9:30 p.m. and stayed until 11 p.m. to water down the furniture that was still smoldering in the cellar area.

Paul Richardson has long since retired and his barn of a woodshop was more a hobby than a full-fledged business, but with 70 years of woodworking experience he considered the woodshop a labor of love. There, he made small furniture like bureaus and cabinets that he mostly gave away to friends.

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