Fire destroys unique Canaan business

Tom Guillette tosses a handful of snow at a hot spot before returning with a bucket of water to put it out in the remains of his workshop in Canaan, N.H., on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, after it was destroyed by fire Wednesday night. Guillette credits the six responding fire departments, Canaan, Lebanon, Enfield, Hanover, Lyme and Dorchester, for their work in containing the fire to save his sugar house, which sits just feet away, and prevent flames spreading to his nearby home. “The response was absolutely amazing,” he said. No one was injured in the fire.

Tom Guillette and his wife Julie sat watching the news at about 7 p.m. on Wednesday Feb. 21, 2024, when they noticed their whole back yard lit up. Two hours earlier he had finished cleaning up and cooling down the crucible in his nearby foundry shop where he melts aluminum to cast cemetery markers. Looking out the window, they saw that the bright light in the yard was caused by the shop burning. 

“It’s a huge financial hit,” to his supplemental income said Guillette, who retired six years ago from his position as facilities manager at the Hanover Co-op. With orders for 12,000 markers on his books, he has had to send customers to a competitor. 

The aluminum that he buys at Massachusetts junk yard sometimes has the flammable metal magnesium mixed in with it. Guillette separates out the magnesium to return to the scrap dealer, and a box of that metal stored in a corner of the shop complicated the efforts to extinguish the fire, he said, because it can burn more intensely when contacted by water. The fire was out and the trucks gone by about 11:30 p.m., he said.

“It’s just something you never expect,” said Guillette. “This is the first fire I’ve been associated with that was close, and I could see how serious it is.”

Founded by Joseph DeFontes in 1953, Guillette bought the business in the 1990s when transitioning out of his career as an engineer at Timken Aerospace. Some of the original equipment destroyed in the fire was made by DeFontes. Guillette said the building was insured for the value of the structure’s replacement. “It’s been a long road, but I learned a lot in that building there and was still learning,” he said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Tom Guillette tosses a handful of snow at a hot spot before returning with a bucket of water to put it out in the remains of his workshop in Canaan, N.H., on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, after it was destroyed by fire Wednesday night. Guillette credits the six responding fire departments, Canaan, Lebanon, Enfield, Hanover, Lyme and Dorchester, for their work in containing the fire to save his sugar house, which sits just feet away, and prevent flames spreading to his nearby home. “The response was absolutely amazing,” he said. No one was injured in the fire. Tom Guillette and his wife Julie sat watching the news at about 7 p.m. on Wednesday Feb. 21, 2024, when they noticed their whole back yard lit up. Two hours earlier he had finished cleaning up and cooling down the crucible in his nearby foundry shop where he melts aluminum to cast cemetery markers. Looking out the window, they saw that the bright light in the yard was caused by the shop burning. “It’s a huge financial hit,” to his supplemental income said Guillette, who retired six years ago from his position as facilities manager at the Hanover Co-op. With orders for 12,000 markers on his books, he has had to send customers to a competitor. The aluminum that he buys at Massachusetts junk yard sometimes has the flammable metal magnesium mixed in with it. Guillette separates out the magnesium to return to the scrap dealer, and a box of that metal stored in a corner of the shop complicated the efforts to extinguish the fire, he said, because it can burn more intensely when contacted by water. The fire was out and the trucks gone by about 11:30 p.m., he said. “It’s just something you never expect,” said Guillette. “This is the first fire I’ve been associated with that was close, and I could see how serious it is.” Founded by Joseph DeFontes in 1953, Guillette bought the business in the 1990s when transitioning out of his career as an engineer at Timken Aerospace. Some of the original equipment destroyed in the fire was made by DeFontes. Guillette said the building was insured for the value of the structure’s replacement. “It’s been a long road, but I learned a lot in that building there and was still learning,” he said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Damaged cemetery markers sit in the burned remains of Tom Guillette’s aluminum foundry in Canaan, N.H, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, after a fire destroyed the building on Wednesday night. No one was injured in the fire. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Damaged cemetery markers sit in the burned remains of Tom Guillette’s aluminum foundry in Canaan, N.H, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, after a fire destroyed the building on Wednesday night. No one was injured in the fire. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

By JAMES M. PATTERSON

Valley News Staff Photographer

Published: 02-22-2024 9:46 PM

As Tom Guillette and his wife Julie were watching the news at about 7 p.m. on Wednesday, they noticed their whole backyard lit up. Two hours earlier he had finished cleaning up and cooling down the crucible in his nearby foundry shop where he melts aluminum to cast cemetery markers. Looking out the window, they saw that the bright light in the yard was caused by the shop burning.

“It’s a huge financial hit,” to his supplemental income Guillette said, who retired six years ago from his position as facilities manager at the Hanover Co-op. With orders for 12,000 markers on his books, he has had to send customers to a competitor.

The aluminum that he buys at a Massachusetts junkyard sometimes has the flammable metal magnesium mixed in with it. Guillette separates out the magnesium to return to the scrap dealer, and a box of that metal stored in a corner of the shop complicated efforts to extinguish the fire, he said, because it can burn more intensely when contacted by water. The fire was out and the trucks gone by about 11:30 p.m., he said.

“It’s just something you never expect,” Guillette said. “This is the first fire I’ve been associated with that was close, and I could see how serious it is.” Founded by Joseph DeFontes in 1953, Guillette bought the business in the 1990s when transitioning out of his career as an engineer at Timken Aerospace. Some of the original equipment destroyed in the fire was made by DeFontes. Guillette said the building was insured for the value of the structure’s replacement. “It’s been a long road, but I learned a lot in that building there and was still learning,” he said.

James M. Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@vnews.com or 603-727-3236.

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