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Fire Decimates Furniture Maker

Springfield, Vt. — A fine furniture maker lost his woodworking shop and his livelihood early Wednesday in a fire that also damaged his 18th century home.

David Heinz, who lives at 316 Parker Hill Road, was awakened around 6:30 a.m. by a passer-by on his way to work. He roused Heinz to tell him his house was on fire.

Heinz, a sculptor and artisan woodworker, said he quickly grabbed his computer and moved his car out of harm’s way. He urged firefighters to save his woodworking shop — housed in a detached post-and-beam barn in back of the 1792 house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Heinz, who moved to Springfield in 2000, meticulously renovated the old barn to house his business. He watched his livelihood go up in flames, as firefighters from across the region battled the blaze and trucked in thousands of gallons of water from local ponds and hydrants to the rural location.

Heinz said he had worked late on a project in his shop. When he was awakened, the fire was in the section of his home he called a garage. At that point, he said, his shop was safe.

But the heat from the fire set the large barn 20 feet away on fire, where his furniture-making shop was located. Firefighters were able to save his house, which he had been renovating, putting on a new roof with the help of neighbors and friends.

He said he had urged firefighters to save his shop rather than his house. He said he didn’t have insurance on his shop, which was filled with woodworking machines, equipment and tools, as well as wood for his projects.

Friends and neighbors came to comfort Heinz, with one neighbor bringing him a warm coat, and others bringing him coffee and something to eat. But years of work went up in giant clouds of smoke.

Heinz said he heated his house with wood, as well as his shop, but that the fire started nowhere near the wood stoves.

The heat from the fire even set his stacked firewood on fire.

Springfield Fire Chief Russell Thompson directed the extensive firefighting effort, which saw departments as far away as Westminster and Ludlow come to the scene.

Thompson said wind helped to push the fire toward the barn. He said the first Springfield firefighters on the scene used fire-retardant foam to arrest the spread of the fire to the house.

Thompson said the cause of the fire was undetermined, but it was definitely not suspicious.

Fire crews set up a tanker shuttle, and drew water from hydrants about two miles away on Parker Hill Road in Rockingham, and at Matulonis’ on Brockways Mills Road. Rockingham firefighters set up a third water source farther south along Parker Hill Road.

“We never lost water,” the chief said.

Firefighters were on the scene for about eight hours, and at one point an excavator from Gurney Brothers Construction was brought in to help firefighters extinguish the barn fire.

The chief said firefighters were unable to use water from a pond in back of Heinz’ house and barn because of soft and unstable ground.

Westminster firefighter Real Bazin said his department had almost drained one pond ferrying loads of water to a cascade system set up on Parker Hill, at the end of Heinz’ driveway.

The Springfield chief said a neighbor had offered a vacant studio on Parker Hill for Heinz to live in as he decided his next step.

“It’s a very serious loss for him,” the chief said.