1 Year After Fire Destroyed Plows, Vt. Town Prepares for Storm with New Trucks in Place

Charlotte town leaders were preparing for potential severe impacts from the impending storm

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As communities across New England brace for possible severe impacts from the latest blast of winter weather, one Vermont town is fine-tuning response plans — precisely a year after it suffered a tough blow to its storm readiness for the 2021-2022 winter season.

“We’re ready to go,” said Junior Lewis, the elected road commissioner of Charlotte, Vermont, a community on Lake Champlain south of Burlington.

Lewis said he expects he and his road crew will need to salt and sand roads when the weather turns, and maybe even keep their chainsaws ready in case of downed limbs or trees.

As busy as it could get, the road commissioner is a lot better off than he was on Dec. 22 of last year, when a big fire in a wooden storage shed destroyed four plow trucks that served the small town, along with parts and other gear. The fire happened ahead of a storm that holiday week, too.

Right after the fire, Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, directed the Vermont Agency of Transportation to loan state trucks to Charlotte to get Lewis and his team through that winter.

“What could be more meaningful than to help out a town after such a tragic event,” transportation secretary Joe Flynn told NECN & NBC10 Boston Dec. 23, 2021, when the orange VTrans plow trucks rolled into Charlotte on loan.

Investigators could not determine a precise cause of the fire, but it was not deemed suspicious. Lewis said the primary hunch was that it was due to an aging electrical system in the old wooden structure.

A year later, the town has started construction on a new garage on Route 7. 

The road commissioner replaced his fleet by last spring, he said.

“We’re whole again,” Lewis said Thursday, adding that he and his team surely will need the rigs for duty in the days ahead.

Select board chair Jim Faulkner was among the community leaders meeting Thursday to craft emergency plans for this next storm. In case of power outages, they were making sure generators are working on town buildings and were preparing for possible warming shelters.

“You don’t want to know about it at the last minute, you want to be prepared ahead of time, so that’s what we’re doing today,” Faulkner said, before taking steps to reduce the chances of possible pipe bursts in town buildings if there were a loss of heat due to power outages.

Having bounced back from last December’s losses, the road commissioner is now looking forward, aiming for safety ahead of the holiday.

“Hopefully, we don’t get too much ice, but I’m sure we’re going to get some,” Lewis said. “We are ready.”

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