Fire that destroyed DCR office in New Salem seen as accidental

  • A building fire on Elm Street in New Salem. RECORDER STAFF/JOSHUA SOLOMON

  • A building fire on Elm Street in New Salem. Recorder staff/Joshua Solomon

  • The New Salem Field Office of the Quabbin Reservoir Watershed burned down Thursday night. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/5/2018 10:29:27 PM

NEW SALEM — The late-night fire that destroyed the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Quabbin Reservoir watershed field office on Elm Street has been deemed accidental by the state fire marshal’s office.

The fire likely caused by a wood stove, the state Fire Marshal’s Office said Friday morning. The office had switched to heating the building with its wood stove Thursday after losing power earlier in the day, because of winds. Power was restored later in the day but no issues were noticed, the fire marshal’s office said.

An electrical cause of the fire, though, is also a possibility because of the extent of damage to the building, the state fire marshal’s office said.

No injuries were reported. The damage costs of the fire, which also burned several agency-owned vehicles, is estimated at $500,000, the fire marshal’s office said.

The blaze was reported around 9:20 p.m. Thursday. Joe Cuneo, chief of the Wendell and New Salem fire departments, said when he arrived, the building was “fully involved.”

The fire appeared under control by 11 p.m., with no flames visible, but the structure appeared to have burned down, with only a chimney standing.

Tankers brought in water from the Swift River. Cuneo said one of the biggest concerns was preventing the blaze from spreading to surrounding vehicles and trees. No injuries were reported.

About 50 firefighters responded, with crews coming from Leverett, Athol, Pelham, Royalston, Phillipston, Erving, Petersham, Shutesbury, Wendell, Greenfield, New Salem, Charlemont, Warwick, Orange, Montague Center and Northfield.

National Grid was present to deal with power lines.

State fire marshal‘’s office’s representatives arrived around 11 p.m.

“The Department of Conservation and Recreation would like to thank the hard work of the local fire department personnel and public safety officials for responding immediately to a DCR maintenance facility fire, and we are incredibly grateful that nobody was hurt during last night’s incident,” department spokesman Troy Wall said in a statement Friday. “Currently, the department is assessing the extent of the damage.”

The field office employs two foresters and six maintenance staff members. They are currently being relocated to work in other spaces in the region, the department said.

When the facility is fully assessed, the department said, it will then figure out its next steps for a future maintenance facility.


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