Updated: Fire engulfs old Adams Funeral Home in Chester

Brandon Taylor shot this photo of the fire at the former Adams Funeral Home at 9:46 Tuesday morning.

Brandon Taylor shot this photo of the fire at the former Adams Funeral Home at 9:46 Tuesday morning.

UPDATED 2:45 p.m.: More photos, details from the fire scene, information from Fire Chief Matt Wilson.

By Shawn Cunningham and
Cynthia Prairie
©2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The home of the former Adams Funeral Home at 35 Depot St. went up in flames this morning as Chester firefighters and those from around the area battled to save the 5,270-square foot structure that was built in 1880.

It is currently owned by Chester resident Lans Christenson, who lives across the street and had been rehabbing the building for several years with the intention of having apartments on the top floors and businesses on the first floor. According to tax records, the building, which sits at the prominent corner of Depot and Main, has 15 rooms.

There were no occupants in the building at the time of the fire, and work on the building had not taken place for quite a while.

Adams Funeral Home on Depot Street in Chester in 2018. File photo by Shawn Cunningham.

At around 9:39 this morning, Chester Fire Chief Matt Wilson and Chester Police Chief Tom Williams were in a meeting with Town Manager Julie Hance when an automatic alarm for the building sounded. Wilson left to attend to the situation. Two minutes later, the alarm sounded for a structure fire.  Chester Police Chief Tom Williams, a firefighter in Springfield, then left and helped set up hoses to fight the fire.

Wilson said that by the time Williams arrived, the two-stall garage at the back of the house was “fully involved.” Sources say that the fire started in the garage area.

“It had been burning for quite sometime by the time before we ever got called,” said Wilson, “When we arrived, (the fire) was already pushing out the left side second floor exterior wall so it has already moved through the building.” Wilson said there was an interior collapse that made it unsafe for firefighters to enter the building meaning that they had to fight it from the outside.

By 11:30, while some firefighters were tearing off the roof to get to fire trapped underneath, others were spraying the bottom of the building to keep the fire from spreading. Shortly thereafter the Vermont State Police announced that Main Street was closed “until further notice.”

At 11:50 a.m., Wilson said, “The slate roof and the sheer size of the building make trying to do everything from the outside hard work and very challenging. We’re starting to get it under control now, starting to get the roof off to control some of the flare ups. It would be nice to have another ladder truck or even two, but we are really tapping the town’s water supply and I don’t know if we could even accommodate another truck.”

Wilson explained that each ladder truck pumps between 1,000 and 2,000 gallons per minute and that the town’s new pumper can put out 1,250 gpm and they were hooked up to three hydrants. “We’re definitely strapping the system,” said Wilson.

Firefighters were also cutting down a tree in front of the house for more access to the structure.

Firefighters from Springfield,  Rockingham, Grafton, Proctorsville, West Weathersfield, Ludlow, Walpole and Bellows Falls were among those who responded.

The fire generated thick, acrid-smelling smoke, forcing firefighters to wear their breathing apparatus outdoors. Walpole sent a “cascade” unit to refill air bottles for breathing. Around 75 firefighters responded to the fire but many had to move away from the building and stand by while the ladder truck hoses blew large sections of slate off the roof.

As of noon today, Wilson confirmed that there had been no injuries and that there was no one in the building at the time of the fire. Wilson said he did not know what caused the fire and had requested the state fire investigator to come to the scene because there’s no readily apparent cause.

“Construction had supposedly stopped a couple of months ago and there’s no other obvious reasons for the fire and it’s not safe to go in,” said Wilson.

The Adams Funeral home closed its doors in February of 2018.

Click on any photo to launch the gallery. Photos below by Shawn Cunningham.

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Filed Under: ChesterFeaturedLatest News

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Victoria Gardner says:

    I was going to come here to say I would like to help out if I can, and if there’s anyone who knows what we can do as a community to help that would be great. ( MacLaomainn’s did a really good thing here for example )

    It’s sad to come here to see a comment making this about their personal political feelings about defending the police in Chester; then making straw men against those who would criticize them costing the town 50k in a racial profiling lawsuit, for example. We can praise the *firefighters* efforts and be critical when *the police* fail in their duties in other events. We can be thankful there are people who want to keep the community safe & hold them to a higher standard than the average civilian. Otherwise we would have authoritarianism run amok.

    Back to my main point; what can we do as a community to help without getting into divisive tribalist politics over it?

  2. Sue McKnight says:

    For any person who feels justified in criticizing firefighters and police officers, I hope they can keep pictures of this horrible task they were dealing with in their minds. This job would be terrible in any weather, but struggling on to put a fire of this magnitude out, while keeping the neighborhood safe in positively abominable weather fits in the “heroes-one-&-all” category. Thank you from very grateful Chester resident.

  3. Warren John Mackensen says:

    It is so sad to see the historic Adams Funeral Home gone.

    Paul Adams and my father, Frank Mackensen, were good friends. My father operated the Fullerton Inn (Chester Inn during those days).

    In 1955, my father and Paul Adams stabled two horses (“Nugget” and “Buckey”) in the barn behind the Inn. They would regularly ride their horses around Chester during the summer. I loved petting the two horses in the barn.

    Fond memories of growing up in Chester!

  4. Jack Carroll says:

    Great pics Shawn.
    Such a sad loss.
    So many memories over the last 70 years.
    Hats off to the devoted firefighters.