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‘Like a Death in the Family:’ Vt. City Reflects on Loss of Granite Facility

The La Cross Memorials building on Boynton Street in Barre burned down Saturday

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After a longtime business in central Vermont’s stoneworking industry was destroyed by fire, its next-door neighbor is now profusely thanking firefighters for their hard work that saved a second property from damage.

The La Cross Memorials building on Boynton Street in Barre burned down Saturday, dealing a blow to the city that calls itself “the granite center of the world.”

“The roots just run so extraordinarily deep that losing a structure like that is like a death in the family in this community,” said Chief Doug Brent of the Barre City Fire Department, describing his city’s granite industry, which is famous for sending monuments and statues far beyond Vermont’s borders.

Around 100 firefighters from area departments responded to the La Cross building mid-afternoon Saturday. The building, estimated at more than a century old, was closed at the time smoke was first reported.

There were no major injuries from the fire, though Brent said one firefighter from the mutual aid system was checked out at the hospital for unspecified reasons.

Monday, a group of people associated with the business declined to comment.

However, next door, DMS Machining & Fabrication said its heart goes out to its neighbors.

“We live in a small community, we all know each other here,” said Byron Atwood, the owner of DMS Machining & Fabrication. “We feel each other’s pain, we feel each other’s sorrow, and we also feel each other’s happiness at this place surviving.”

He used the word “surviving” because of just how close the flames came to his own building, where 45 people work.

DMS shared video and still photos with NECN which it took Saturday, showing fire ripping through the granite facility.

In the video, you can see fire departments dousing water on the DMS building to keep the flames from jumping to that property. Along with everything the firefighters did to hose down the machine shop, the metal siding at DMS seems to have helped protect the structure, Atwood said.

What’s most impressive about that, Atwood added, is how close DMS sits to the destroyed granite shed—just feet apart.

“I can’t thank the firefighters enough,” Atwood said of the efforts to protect his property.

Chief Brent said Monday the investigation is still in its early stages and noted how many people in the city are reflecting on the long legacy of Barre granite.

“We almost needed a police officer on scene yesterday when we were doing mop up—the amount of cars and people who came by to view or pay their respects to the owners,” Brent recalled.

Brent said pinpointing an origin and cause of the fire is going to be tricky, not just because of the size of the building, but also because the roof collapsed.

An investigator from the Vermont Division of Fire Safety is providing critical assistance with the case, Brent said.

The chief added that it will be complicated to tally a final damage estimate of the fire, but said he would not be surprised if it was at least a half-million dollars—or even up to a million.

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