Vermont Timber Works destroyed in massive blaze

The above video was gleaned from more than 30 minutes of cellphone camera footage taken by Kelly Burton.


By Shawn Cunningham
and Kelly Burton
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The dumpster where the fire began. Photo by Kelly Burton

An early evening fire that destroyed the Vermont Timber Works factory in North Springfield  Saturday was caused by spontaneous combustion of waste materials in a dumpster, fire investigators said. According to its website, Vermont Timberworks handcrafts and assembles timber frames for houses, barns, churches and other structures.

At about 7:30 p.m., the Springfield Fire Department received a 9-1-1 call about a dumpster fire as well as an automatic fire alarm at the building at 16 Fairbanks Road. On arrival minutes later, firefighters found a fireball shooting from the roof in the center of the building.

The Springfield ladder truck continues to spray water onto hot spots on Sunday morning. The dumpster where the fire got started is in the lower foreground.Photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted

Pam and Warren Campbell, who live across the street from the business, were returning home when they noticed the dumpster fire, and immediately called 9-1-1. And in an adjacent apartment complex, residents had been told by firefighters to move their cars away from the scene, then stood at their windows or outside watching as fire crews attacked the blaze, still close enough to feel the heat, explosions and soot coming from the scene.

Vermont Timberworks is located in an industrial park area which includes Fairbanks Road and Precision Drive. The industrial park adjoins some residential neighborhoods.

On Sunday morning, Deputy Chief Scott Richardson told The Telegraph that there were a number of explosions from propane and gasoline tanks inside the building, preventing firefighters from using their ladder truck above the fire. The fire was upgraded to a third alarm just before 8 p.m., calling even more firefighters and extra apparatus to the scene.

In a press release issued Sunday afternoon, Assistant State Fire Marshal Chris Boyd and State Police Detective Sgts. Todd Ambroz and Thomas Williams say that a dumpster located in front of the building contained waste materials such as sawdust and rags used in staining wood.  According to the press release, the heat and humidity of Saturday combined to cause a spontaneous combustion in the dumpster that then extended into the building. The fire has been classified as accidental.

Fire investigators confer after inspecting the fire scene on Sunday morning.

Co-owner Doug Friant of Londonderry told The Telegraph late Saturday night that as far as he knew, no one was in the building and that the business was a total loss.

“We’ll rebuild and keep moving forward,” said Friant. “We’re already looking for temporary space and temporary machinery. The important thing is that nobody was hurt.”

“It’s just a building and buildings can be rebuilt,” said Friant.

While firefighters continued to douse the wreckage, the work of salvaging from the office began

Bob Flint, executive director of the Springfield Area Regional Development Corp., confirmed that his organization was helping Vermont Timber Works owners to find space to begin again but has not yet pinned down a location.

In addition to Springfield, fire departments from Chester, Bellows Falls, Proctorsville, Westminster, West Weathersfield, Windsor, Ascutney, Ludlow, Reading, Claremont, and Walpole, N.H., helped in extinguishing the fire while units from Charlestown and North Walpole, N.H., covered the Springfield station. Golden Cross and Charlestown Ambulance Services  also provided coverage for Springfield. Firefighters were also assisted by the Springfield Police Department, Green Mountain Power and the American Red Cross. While mutual aid departments were released around 12:30 a.m on Sunday, Springfield crews remained on the scene through the night. Richardson said there was one minor injury to a firefighter.

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