Official Cause of Fire at White River Junction Furniture Store Ruled ‘Undetermined’

  • Mike Tidwell, of the Hartford Fire Department, works to put out any fires on the inside of the building that houses the Heirloom Antique Center & Furniture Hospital and Mainly Vintage clothing store in White River Junction, Vt., on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, July 23, 2018

White River Junction — State and local fire officials say they were unable to determine what sparked the fire last month that destroyed the recently sold Heirloom Antique Center & Furniture Hospital and Mainly Vintage clothing store along Route 5.

Hartford Fire Chief Scott Cooney said on Monday that the cause of the fire wasn’t considered suspicious and will remain labeled as “undetermined,” unless and until further information comes forward that may provide more insight into what started the early morning blaze on June 19.

“We have found an origin in the basement,” Cooney said. “But we can’t determine the exact cause.”

Meanwhile, Hartford Town Manager Leo Pullar said the heavily damaged structure, which still is filled with charred antiques and ruined clothing, will be demolished on Wednesday.

Richard Brown and his partner Ann Hayden, who owned the businesses, recently had sold the property to Marc Garza, who had plans to develop a gym there.

Garza, a Hartford High School graduate who owned Upper Valley Coin & Jewelry in West Lebanon, currently is living on the property in an apartment building adjacent to the structure that burned. He has relocated his coin and jewelry business there.

He declined to speak with a reporter on Monday about what his plans may be for the future at the 672 North Main St. location.

Also on the property on Monday was Hayden, who often is outside sorting through what remains of her and her partner’s collections.

Only some items were salvageable, she said on Monday.

“There is not much you can do about it though,” Hayden, 77, said. “I’d just like to be done. Enough is enough.”

She has been loading saveable items into a U-Haul and taking them to a storage unit across the river.

Her hope for the future is to find a commercial-residential space, so she and Brown, 87, can live there and still run a small-scale store. Brown previously told the Valley News he had to sell the property due to health reasons. Since the fire, Brown suffered a fall and now is staying in a rehabilitation facility in Concord, only complicating matters, Hayden said.

Several pieces of furniture and other antiques still sit spread out in the parking lot in front of the destroyed store. Hayden invited anyone interested in something they see to stop by.

Most of the clothing remains inside the building with water, smoke and fire damage. Many shirts and pants were melted to the plastic hangers they once hung on, while other pieces lay soaked and mud coated on the floor.

“Sad, sad, sad,” Hayden said as she peered through a side door and stared at her ruined collection.

She wasn’t sure what feelings would come over her on Wednesday when the structure she and her partner spent many years in would be torn down.

On Monday afternoon, she bent down and picked up a tarnished mirror frame that needs to be restored. She questioned whether she should bring it up to the U-Haul and work on it. She then set it back down and walked away.

“I will probably be glad when it’s over,” Hayden said. “Then I can’t muck around in here anymore.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.