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3-alarm fire destroys storage facility in Concord’s South End

  • Firefighters battle a blaze at at Yankee Kenworth Trucks in Concord's South End early yesterday.<br/><br/>(SANDY SMITH / Monitor staff)
  • Firefighters battle flames early Thursday morning, May 1, 2014 behind Yankee Kenworth off of Hall Street.
  • Firefighters discuss options during the fire behind Yankee Kenworth Thursday May 1, 2014.<br/><br/>(GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff)
  • What is left of the building behind Yankee Kenworth Trucks in Concord's South End on Thursday, May 1, 2014.<br/><br/>(GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff)

A storage facility on Hall Street was destroyed early yesterday by a voracious three-alarm fire that required about 50 firefighters from across the region to help bring it under control.

The fire began shortly after midnight at Yankee Kenworth Trucks, in a mostly industrial area of Concord’s South End. About 20 firefighters initially responded to the scene, but more than two dozen others were soon called in to assist as the building, a narrow wooden structure the length of a football field, erupted in flames.

Using elevated master streams and surrounding hose lines, crews were able to contain the fire shortly after 2 a.m. Concord fire Chief Dan Andrus said the effort was hampered by heavy rains, which lowered visibility, impaired ground conditions and did little to dampen the blaze.

“I was really glad no one was injured,” Andrus said.

An adjacent gas tanker truck also caught fire, and several vehicles as well as a nearby warehouse owned by Big Jim’s Home Center were exposed to intense heat, Andrus said. No injuries were reported, and no surrounding structures were seriously damaged, he said.

Big Jim’s owner Don Steenbeke said his warehouse was unharmed. A friend texted him soon after the fire began, but he didn’t see the message for several hours.

“It’s a good thing,” joked Steenbeke, who lives in Boscawen. If he had gotten it, he said, he might have broken a few traffic laws rushing to the scene.

Investigators were still searching for a cause yesterday afternoon. Andrus said three department investigators were working with the state fire marshal’s office and the Concord Police Department to interview employees from the night shift, reconstruct the layout of the building and search for “spread patterns and potential sources of ignition.” He speculated that the fire had grown rapidly in part because of the grease that is typically associated with automotive parts.

The building, which had been filled with vehicles and parts, was by mid-morning reduced to a charred, steaming strip of twisted metal and iron pillars. A handful of firefighters picked through the rubble as two officials atop an engine ladder surveyed the scene from above.

Andrus said a cleanup crew had begun work outside the building, and that the Department of Environmental Services was present to monitor that effort.

The incident did not stop Yankee Kenworth, which sells and services commercial trucks, from opening yesterday as scheduled. An office manager said the business was operating at full capacity and owners were busy speaking with an insurer. The building that was destroyed, built in 1980 and located in the rear of the property, has a replacement value of $327,000, according to the city assessing database.

Andrus said the incinerated tanker was worth half a million dollars. He said the seven vehicles inside the building were destroyed. Their loss, together with that of various parts, was estimated at more than $1 million.

Firefighters from Allenstown, Boscawen, Bow, Chichester, Epsom, Henniker, Hopkinton, Loudon, Pembroke, Hooksett and Manchester aided in the effort.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached by phone at 369-3319, by email at jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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