CHARLESTON - A rapid moving fire destroyed a building at NorthWoods Stewardship Center Thanksgiving weekend.
Flames broke out in the boiler building around 8 p.m. Saturday November 24, and luckily someone was there to take action.
Northwoods Executive Director Jayson Benoit saw the fire, went for the fire extinguisher and called for help. The Charleston Fire Department responded and found the building fully engulfed in flames, said Duane Moulton, Charleston’s fire chief.
Eighteen Charleston firefighters were on site with five trucks and had the fire out within 45 minutes. A nearby pond at the center provided ample water to quickly extinguish the fire. Firefighters remained on scene for a few additional hours to make sure everything was in order and safe.
Maria Young, education director at Northwoods, said that the loss is estimated at about $30,000. The boiler was lost along with the structure that housed the heating system. About one quarter of the season’s wood supply for heat was lost, as well as other equipment.
The center has insurance, but it is unclear what the issuance will pay and, Young said, she anticipates it won’t be enough to fully replace all that was lost.
The boiler building was separate from the center's other buildings and the fire did not spread further.
The fire chief said a fire investigator concluded that a garbage can continuing ashes is to blame for the fire. It was sitting outside the structure. Hot ashes contain embers that can sometimes stay very hot for days, Mouton explained. He said hot ashes should be spread out in damp soil away from structures, or sprayed down with water if disposed of in a dry area.
The fire struck just as the center’s long winter heating season is starting, and many are working quickly to develop both short-term heating and long-term replacement plans.
The center remains open for business as usual and for now is heating with wood stoves.
A “Wood Chuck” party for volunteers is scheduled at the center Thursday through Sunday starting at 10 a.m..
Volunteers are needed to help stack firewood and help with the cleanup effort. Lunch will be provided. Those interested should contact Benoit at firstname.lastname@example.org  or call 802.723.6511 X113. Northwoods is also asking for monetary contributions to assist the center with restoration efforts.