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Local towns pitch in to assist Henniker after fire destroys town garage, plows

Last modified: 2/1/2015 12:45:24 AM
Less than 12 hours after the late Friday night fire was extinguished, neighbors were clambering to help the town of Henniker.

“At this time, the Henniker Highway Department is in a bad condition,” said Tim Redmond, director of the Public Works Department in Weare.

Late Friday night, Henniker’s town garage caught fire, completely destroying the building and all of the equipment inside.

“The building is a total loss,” said Henniker fire Chief Steve Burritt.

The fire was reported shortly before 8 p.m. and was extinguished about midnight, he said.

The next morning, Weare, a handful of local communities, and state departments and agencies began working to ensure Henniker is at least in a safe condition for tomorrow’s impending snowstorm. The Henniker Board of Selectmen held an emergency meeting yesterday morning, preparing for the immediate need of replacement equipment.

According to a press release from the selectmen, “the only equipment we have remaining is the backhoe, loader, sidewalk plow, one F350 truck and one F350 truck that needs repairs but should be operational.”

Five large plow trucks, a road grader and a pickup truck were in the building and destroyed in the fire, Burritt said.

“It appears that the fire started in one of the (plow) trucks. That was the conclusion of the fire marshal’s office today,” he said yesterday afternoon.

The New Hampshire State Fire Marshall’s Office released a statement last night about the investigation, concluding the fire started in the engine compartment or cab of a truck. The investigation was conducted by Burritt, State Fire Marshal William Degnan and Henniker Police Chief Ryan Murdough.

A fire alarm system alerted the fire department of the garage’s fire Friday night, but the building lacked an automatic fire sprinkler system.

Set on top of a hill not far from the town’s center, the blackened building was being cordoned off by Burritt yesterday afternoon. The few remaining, functional vehicles rested a safe distance from the building. The burnt trucks remained in front the garage, where icicles hung off the damaged vehicles and the collapsed roof line.

The snow expected for tomorrow is light snow similar to Tuesday’s snowfall, but is expected in a lesser quantity.

“We have a watch out starting late Sunday night through Monday evening,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Nikki Becker. As of last night, there was at least a 50 percent chance that Henniker could see 6 or more inches tomorrow.

Among the towns offering assistance with the snow removal are Antrim, Bradford, Deering, Hillsboro, Hopkinton and Weare. Redmond said Weare is going to loan a grader to Henniker. Kent Barton, a member of the Hopkinton Public Works Department, will plow a portion of Henniker using one of Hopkinton’s graders, according to an email from Hopkinton officials.

“We are in the process of working with the state to have 5 plow trucks available,” the selectmen announced in the press release yesterday, adding that the town is also working with the state’s Emergency Operations Center.

“The town has a plan to plow the streets. They’re asking for the patience of the residents and the people who come through town,” Burritt said. “It might not be plowed quite as quickly, but it will get done.”

The initial steps of planning beyond this week’s snowfall are in the works, as well. Burritt said the town spoke with the insurance agent and evaluating the costs of damage to the town garage will continue this week.

“The town has insurance on this,” Burritt said. “We all hope it covers it, but you don’t know.”

According to the state Fire Marshal’s Office, damage could exceed $1 million in overall property damage.

Insurance adjusters are scheduled to visit the building tomorrow, Burritt said.

(Susan Doucet can be reached at 369-3309, sdoucet@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @susan_doucet.)


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