Fire destroys Bennington furniture store
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | January 03,2014
BENNINGTON — A morning fire on a frigid day destroyed a local furniture store Friday although there have been no reported injuries and the store’s landmark feature remains intact.
The fire at Laflammes, a furniture store that also has a branch in Rutland, was reported around 7:45 a.m.
Chief Shawn Gardner of the Bennington Rural Fire Department said around 11 a.m. that the fire was under control but firefighters were still continuing to spray the building with water and thick smoke was continuing to rise from what remained.
Parts of the building appeared gutted although several of the walls were still standing.
However, the location at the intersection of Northside Drive and Route 7A, is widely known for the Big Chair, a ladderback chair almost 20 feet high. The fire at the building did not damage the chair.
Gardner said there was no one in the store at the time of the fire. No firefighters were injured either although many were taking breaks at American Legion Post 13 to get a respite from the weather which hadn’t yet risen as high as 0 degrees Friday.
Gardner said when he arrived, there was heavy fire going through the roof on the north end of the building. The fire chief said the fire had worked its way through the building with plenty of material in the store to feed the fire.
The intense cold made efforts difficult. Some hydrants failed on Friday, Gardner said.
“The weather’s our (main) factor, the cold temperatures. We’re having trouble with heating water. Our trucks are freezing up but we do have a ladder truck from Williamstown (Mass.) and one from Hoosick Falls (N.Y.) and one from Bennington village,” he said.
Gardner said they hadn’t yet had a chance to try to determine the cause of the fire yet.
One of the first to report the fire was Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette, a former member of the Bennington Rural Fire Department, who was driving on Northside Drive. Doucette said he saw smoke but didn’t think it was uncommon because many tractor-truck drivers stay in the motels on Northside and when they get ready to leave in the morning, there is often a lot of exhaust.
But Doucette said he saw fire rolling out of one of the store’s front windows so he called the dispatchers, who told him they had just dispatched the fire department. Doucette said he helped firefighters.
“The fire spread very, very quickly. At one point, the fire was out the front of the building and both ends of the building and then when the roof collapsed we had to back off,” he said.
Owner Christopher Laflamme, who was waiting at the American Legion, appeared to be in shock because of the situation. He said he was grateful to all the firefighters who were working on the building and that no one was hurt.
But he also said he hadn’t even had a chance to think about what he would do next with the store except that he would “do the right thing.”
The fire came almost exactly 13 months after the site was reopened as a furniture store. Before Laflamme bought the building, it was the Haynes & Kane Furniture Store for decades until it closed in 2006. Laflamme said one of his goals in returning the site to use was to bring back the Big Chair which had been in place from 1969 to 2000.