CANDIA — The historic Candia General Store was damaged in an electrical fire Tuesday afternoon, but fire officials believe that the building can be saved.
Candia Fire Chief Dean Young said that the fire, a two-alarm blaze, is suspected of being caused by an electrical panel in the basement of the store and is not considered suspicious.
"The general store has been around longer than I can remember, and I am 60, so probably 100 years. It's a landmark in the town, so it's important that it was saved, but it will take a lot of work to get it back together. Hopefully insurance takes care of it; it would be a shame to see it go," Young said.
The store, owned by Roy and Marie Martel, will be closed while the family determines what to do, said a member of the Martel family.
Young said that he was quick to the scene of the fire, as he was very close by.
"When I pulled up, I saw smoke coming out the roof, and the owner was standing outside and she said she heard the panel popping and saw the lights dim. There was a lot of smoke, so just to be safe, because two buildings are close on either side of the store, I called in the second alarm," Young said.
Young said that a three-man team entered the building and knocked down the fire in the basement. The fire produced a lot of smoke as it burned the plastic off of the nearby wiring. While the structure of the building was not damaged, Young said firefighters tore out the floor to ensure there would be no further damage. He added that the inventory of the store is almost certainly ruined.
"We had 20 people show up, which is tough during the day because (Candia is a volunteer department) and everyone is all at work," Young said.
Even if Roy and Marie Martel decide not to reopen the store, Young said he hopes someone else steps up to buy it and reopen the store.
"It is very important to the town and has a lot of loyal customers. But I don't know what is going to happen, and I don't think the owners do either; this just happened," Young said.
The involvement of mutual aid in providing extra manpower to the scene of fires in Candia is a vital tool in ensuring that fires like the one at the general store are knocked down quickly.
"When I call for help, they come immediately, and vice versa. Mutual aid is great; it's a wonderful system because it would be impossible for us as a small town to fight a fire alone; we need them."
Young said that many of the surrounding towns responded to the second alarm, including fire departments from Deerfield, Auburn, Hooksett, Raymond and Chester.