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Fire destroys building; nearby businesses okay

Chief: Cause still being investigated

A two-alarm fire destroyed a building in downtown Franklin yesterday afternoon.

No one was inside when the fire began, and one person at the nearby Elks Lodge was treated for smoke inhalation, according to fire Chief Kevin LaChapelle.

The building previously was home to Lucky Lenny’s hardware store, he said, but was being rented to Regal Auctions.

The property belongs to Lenny Birke, LaChapelle said. Birke could not be reached for comment last night.

The cause of the fire at 202 Central St. is under investigation, LaChapelle said.

LaChapelle said the fire was reported shortly before 1 p.m. yesterday and was under control by 3 p.m.

Smoke from the fire quickly reached other buildings on Central Street, but LaChapelle said no other building was damaged by flames.

“The smoke was . . . on Central Street and basically got into all the adjacent buildings,” he said.

He said firefighters worked quickly to save the adjacent businesses: Ciao Pasta and Bill Hamels Car Care. They were closed and empty when the fire began.

“The quick actions by the initial arriving companies who established a good water supply is what helped save the adjacent buildings,” LaChapelle said.

The fire was around the corner from the Franklin Fire Department on Bow Street, however, LaChapelle said this weekend’s blizzard made it difficult for other fire officials to reach the scene. Snow was falling when the fire began, and the roads were snow-covered.

“The roads were very slippery, so it did require a slower response by incoming companies . . . (and) off-duty personnel,” he said.

Fire crews from the Sanbornton, Hill, Andover, Belmont, Bristol, Laconia, Concord, Boscawen and Tilton-Northfield fire departments responded to the fire. Gilford and New Hampton provided ambulance coverage.

All but the building’s front facade collapsed, he said.

“This fire was wind-driven and difficult to extinguish,” LaChapelle wrote in a press release. “Firefighters struggled while operating at this fire as the frigid temperatures and heavy winds made it difficult to maneuver and operate equipment.”

The Elks Lodge became a staging area and offered warmth and refreshments to the firefighters, LaChapelle said.

Fire crews were expected to remain on the scene throughout last night.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

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