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Cousineau Forest Products says business will proceed in Henniker despite extensive fire damage

  • Firefighters from around the region responded to a fire at Cousineau Forest Products at 1310 Old Concord Road in Henniker Sunday. Jay Heath—Courtesy

  • Firefighters from around the region responded to a fire at Cousineau Forest Products at 1310 Old Concord Road in Henniker Sunday. Jay Heath—Courtesy

  • A firefighter battles the blaze at Cousineau Forest Products on Old Concord Road in Henniker Sunday. Courtesy of Jay Heath

  • Firefighters from around the region responded to a fire at Cousineau Forest Products at 1310 Old Concord Road in Henniker Sunday. Jay Heath—Courtesy

  • Firefighters from around the region responded to a fire at Cousineau Forest Products at 1310 Old Concord Road in Henniker Sunday. Courtesy of Jay Heath

  • Hopkinton Firefighter Michael Dean surveys what is left of the lumber mill at Cousineau Forest Products at 1310 Old Concord Road in Henniker on Sunday. Jay Heath—Courtesy

  • Firefighters put out hotspots at the Cousineau Forest Products in Henniker on Monday morning, June 1, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A firefighter puts out hotspots on the main structure that was destroyed at the Cousineau Forest Products in Henniker on Monday morning, June 1, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A firefighter puts out hotspots on Monday morning, June 1, 2020 at the Cousineau Forest Products in Henniker. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Firefighters put out hotspots on the main structure that burned at Cousineau Forest Products in Henniker on Monday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Firefighters were still on scene at Cousineau Forest Products in Henniker on Monday to look for hot spots. The blackened trees in the background show the height of the flames on Sunday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Above: Randy Cousineau, president of Cousineau Forest Products in Henniker, views the damage on Monday. Below: Firefighters work on putting out hotspots on Monday. Photos by GEOFF FORESTER /Monitor staff

  • Firefighters and an excuvator work on putting out hotspots on what is left of the burning pile of wood at the Cousineau Forest Products in Henniker on Monday morning, June 1, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/31/2020 8:37:39 PM

Hours after a three-alarm fire raged at a wood processing facility in Henniker, the owner and his management team were busy devising a plan to rebuild and strategizing about how to meet customers’ needs in the interim.

“The important part of the story is we’re going to get going immediately. We’re not turning any customers away,” said Randy Cousineau, president of Cousineau Forest Products. “We’ll bring in mobile equipment in the short term and we’ll get to rebuilding, making it better than it was before.”

The Henniker facility, which processes wood into playground surfacing, biomass fuel, chips and bark mulch, suffered its first serious fire Sunday afternoon under Cousineau’s ownership. Cousineau, who is based in Wilton, Maine, took over operations in Henniker about three years ago. He estimates that Sunday’s fire caused an estimated half a million dollars in damage.

“I came down this morning, left my house at about 2 a.m. and got here at 7,” he said. 

Firefighters from throughout the region responded to the facility at 1310 Old Concord Road on Sunday at about 3:14 p.m. The fire first ripped through a 40 by 80-foot building that housed one-of-a-kind machinery for wood processing, officials said. Strong winds then caused the blaze to spread quickly into a nearby treeline at the 26-acre site.

“I’m told it was called in around 3 o’clock from someone who lives in the trailer down the road. Someone saw the thick smoke,” General Manager Curtis Richmond said at the scene Monday.

“When I got here at 4 this morning, there were still flames burning everywhere,” Richmond said. “They had to call (fire) crews back around 8 a.m.”

First responders from Henniker, Hillsborough and a couple of other surrounding towns were still on scene shortly after 10 a.m. dousing hot spots. Richmond said earlier in the morning an investigator with the New Hampshire Fire Marshal’s Office was on scene and conducted interviews.

“They’re still investigating the cause, but if you look up there you can see the blow out on that pole, which I think is very suspicious,” Richmond said, while pointing to the utility pole that serviced the building. “There was some kind of shortage and right in front there was our fuel filling station. I suspect sparks flew and landed on our diesel tank, but that’s just my assumption.”

Richmond said there was no one at the business at the time the fire broke out.

“This will have a huge impact on the forest products industry,” he said of the fire. “We are one of the last markets left for loggers to sell their low grade wood and we’re the largest supplier in New England of playground chips.”

Richmond and Cousineau said they’re trying to minimize any repercussions on the forest products industry by bringing in mobile, diesel-powered equipment to keep business flowing as seamlessly as possible. 

“We’ll be able to process the same amount of product. It won’t be as efficient as the electrically-powered machines but it’ll get the job done,” Richmond said. “It won’t be a moneymaker but it’ll satisfy my customers until we get up and running again.”

The machinery used to make playground chips was specialized and handmade. While replacing it will be a challenge, the family-owned business is already getting to work on the details. Cousineau walked the property Monday morning to carefully assess the damage and get a full inventory of what was lost in the fire.

According to the company’s website, the Cousineau family began operating a small sawmill in 1959 in Strong, Maine. Randy Cousineau took over the business in 1973 from his parents, Ernest and Velma Cousineau. Since then, Randy has expanded the company throughout Maine and into New Hampshire. He is joined by his daughter and two sons, who plan to one day take the helm.

Randy Cousineau said the fire was an unfortunate setback but will not sideline the company for long.

“We’re picking up the pieces and we’ll be right back at it in no time,” he said.




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