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Two-alarm fire destroys former hardware store in Franklin

Union Leader Correspondent

February 09. 2013 9:54PM

FRANKLIN – Firefighters battled strong winds and cold temperatures in fighting a two-alarm fire at a former hardware store Saturday, but could not save the building from the flames.

Crews from the Franklin and Tilton-Northfield fire departments were called at 12:51 p.m. to a reported fire in a building that once housed Old Lucky Lenny's Hardware at 202 Central St., according to Franklin Fire Department Capt. Bruce Goldthwaite.

The building was not a place of business, but was being used by its owner, Leonard Birke, for storage, Goldthwaite said. Birke could not be reached for comment Saturday.

The department received several 911 calls, he said, from people reporting fire in the building. Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy smoke coming from the building, and within a few minutes, fire was seen coming from the rear of the building's back side, he said.

Firefighters brought the flames under control within two hours, but the building was completely destroyed.

Goldthwaite said two nearby businesses were threatened by the flames.

"An aggressive exterior attack with a well-established water supply was key to protecting the adjacent exposures of Ciao Pasta and Bill Hamel's Car Care," he said.

He added that fighting the flames was difficult.

"This fire was wind driven and difficult to extinguish. Firefighters struggled while operating at this fire as the frigid temperatures and heavy winds made it difficult to maneuver and operate equipment," Goldthwaite said.

Among the 65 firefighters at the scene, none were hurt. One occupant of the nearby Franklin Elks Lodge was evaluated for smoke inhalation and released without injury, he said.

"The Franklin Elks Lodge provided much-appreciated support by opening their building for firefighter staging and warm refreshments," Goldthwaite said.

Firefighters remained at the scene overnight to extinguish hot spots among the ashes, he said.

Assisting in fighting the fire were departments from Sanbornton, Hill, East Andover, Belmont, Gilford, Bristol, Laconia, and Concord, while crews from the Boscawen Fire Department covered the Franklin fire station. The Gilford Fire Department's ambulance was at the scene, and the New Hampton Fire Department provided ambulance coverage for the Franklin Fire Station.

Ambulances from Penacook Rescue and Tilton-Northfield covered multiple EMS calls in Franklin, during the fire, he said, and members of Franklin's police and municipal services departments assisted with road closures and other support.

"Immense teamwork and strong mutual aid support allowed for a successful operation in adverse weather conditions," said Franklin Fire Chief Kevin LaChapelle.

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