Fire destroys sugarhouse during Sunday night storm
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | December 31,2013
PHOTO By LEN EMERY
A fire Sunday night destroyed a sugarhouse owned by John Prescott on Parker Hill Road.
SPRINGFIELD — Firefighters had to battle heavy wet snow in addition to flames Sunday night when a fire broke out in a sugarhouse owned by John Prescott on Parker Hill Road.
The sugarhouse, which dates from the 1940s, was destroyed in the fire. The structure was vacant at the time the fire broke out around 8:50 p.m.
Springfield Fire Chief Russell Thompson said the cause of the fire was undetermined, but there were no suspicious circumstances. He said by the time firefighters got to the scene, there was no saving the structure.
Part of the sugarhouse was used for storage, and the burned skeleton of a tractor and loader and other farming machinery could be seen in the rubble, as well as a maple evaporator and large gathering tank.
Thompson said the fire was reported shortly before 9 p.m. Parker Hill Road had not been plowed, prompting one firefighter, Sean Foulois, to partially plow the road with his own pickup to help get the Springfield firetruck up the steep hill leading to the fire scene.
Thompson said road conditions were “terrible” Sunday night and that thefire truck did have on chains, but still had a hard time getting up the steep hill.
“It was slow treading for everybody,” he said.
Walpole, N.H., sent its large tanker truck to supply water, he said, but the firefighters were there to “quench” the fire.
Springfield Fire Capt. James Benton said the sugarhouse, about 25 by 30 feet, had been used by Prescott for sugaring through about 30 years. “It was down on the ground when we got there,” Benton said.
He said the firefighters wet down the rubble to make sure there was no exposure to nearby buildings, including the Prescotts’ home.
According to the Parker Hill Rural Historic District nominating papers, the sugarhouse was built in 1947 by Howard Blodgett for Edward Prescott. It was the second major fire on Parker Hill during the past two months. The furniture workshop belonging to artisan David Heinz was destroyed and his home damaged in a fire Nov. 13.
Thompson said Sunday was an extremely busy day for the Springfield Fire Department, as there were numerous motor vehicle accidents on Interstate 91, in addition to the Prescott fire.
“Earlier in the day, they had a dozen runs,” the chief said, adding there were five ambulance runs on a normal day.