Firefighters Battle Three-Alarm Blaze at LaValley Building Supply in Newport

  • LaValley Building Supply employee Tim Leavitt spreads salt along the scene of a fire at the store in Newport, N.H., on Dec. 7, 2018. Leavitt has worked for the company for 30 years, starting there just after high school. A large storage building that housed flooring and countertop materials was destroyed by fire.. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Firefighters respond to a three-alarm fire at LaValley Building Supply in Newport, N.H., on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (Valley News - Jordan Cuddemi) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, December 07, 2018

Newport — Area firefighters on Friday morning prevented a quick-moving, three-alarm fire in an outbuilding at LaValley Building Supply from spreading to the store and several other buildings at its Sunapee Street property.

But the fire — so hot that it damaged a Newport firetruck — destroyed a large storage building that housed flooring and countertop materials and damaged the nearby window and door showroom.

LaValley President and owner Larry Huot applauded firefighters for the strategy they used.

“It was miraculous what they did,” Huot said. “They put water to the surrounding buildings and what was probably within minutes of a huge catastrophe, these folks contained it. I couldn’t be more appreciative of the way these people professionally operated.”

Friday morning started out like any other day at the store along Route 11/103. Customers stopped in to pick up deliveries or shop around for a specific item.

Newport resident Bill Bartlett, who owns Bartlett’s Blueberry Farm, stopped in to look at some new windows. He recalled chatting with the staff when someone walked in the front door around 9:15 a.m. and said one of the buildings was on fire.

“We went out, and sure enough, there was a lot of smoke in the building,” Bartlett said. “It appeared to be kind of high in the building on the left-hand side from what I could see. Things just took off from there.”

An employee called 911 and several departments arrived over the next 30 minutes, racing to set up hose lines that crisscrossed a now-shuttered main artery through Newport.

Newport, New London and Claremont responded with ladder trucks and firefighters sprayed water from above the structure. A thick, black plume of smoke could be seen for miles, and bright orange flames shot some 30 feet into the air as firefighters tried to control the flames.

“The critical part for us was we had some fire between (the storage) building and the office building,” Deputy Fire Chief David McCrillis said. “The initial crews did a great job in order to prevent the fire from spreading to the other buildings. We really had our hands full.”

The heat was so intense that it broke some of the windows on the side of the store and damaged some of its siding.

The fire forced the evacuation of nearby Country Kitchen, which appeared to close for the remainder of the day.

McCrillis called the help from area fire departments “critical” in the fight of Friday’s fire.

“Without that, there would have been more damage to more buildings,” he said.

One Newport firefighter was transported to Valley Regional Hospital for precautionary reasons. He is expected to be OK, the chief said.

The back of a Newport engine received “moderate damage” because of the extreme heat, McCrillis said.

Police closed Route 11/103 for at least two hours, causing traffic backups through town. Crews reopened one lane of travel shortly before noon.

An area construction company brought in an excavator, which picked away at the destroyed storage building.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. The deputy chief didn’t speculate on what might have caused it.

The supply store, which has been in operation since 1962, suffered a small fire in its history in Newport, but nothing of this magnitude.

Huot, the owner, remained positive on Friday.

He said deliveries would continue to go out and he expects the business will be able to “respond quite quickly.”

If everything goes as planned, the Newport store will be open for business this morning.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 063-727-3248.