Small fire makes big mess at Stanton Hall

Ceiling struts had to be cleaned by hand. (Photo by Amy Porter/The Westfield News)

HUNTINGTON, Mass. (The Westfield News) – A small fire in Stanton Hall on Saturday, the day before Christmas, has required a big clean-up still going on Wednesday in the town center. The fire started after the wooden floors in the Town Hall at 24 Russell Road were refinished by O’Brien Flooring of Easthampton.

After vacuuming up the wood shavings, the shop vacs were moved next door to Stanton Hall, where the floor was also being redone. The polyurethane shavings in the shop vac, which are highly combustible, apparently started smoldering from the hot motor and torched the floor.

According to Huntington selectman John McVeigh, the fire alarm in Stanton Hall is audible only, so approximately 30 minutes passed before the fire department was alerted to the fire, allowing toxic smoke to fill the hall. McVeigh said it was a wake-up call for the town.

Once discovered, the fire was quickly extinguished, but the smoke damage was extensive. McVeigh called Advanced Restoration in Easthampton, who came out on Saturday and immediately replaced the section of the floor which was damaged. All of the ceiling tiles still have to be replaced, the ceiling struts and walls scrubbed down and then repainted. A lot of the work has to be done by hand, McVeigh said.

According to Huntington Fire Chief Gary Dahill, the damage amount is approximately $20,000.

Making things more difficult, all of the furniture from Town Hall was being stored in Stanton Hall on the stage and in the back of the building, as the offices are being reconfigured and internet connections upgraded. On Wednesday, the three town selectmen and other town officials were all moving furniture as the clean-up continued.

“Luckily, we haven’t lost any property. It was all cosmetic. If it had made it to the sub-floor, it would have been a whole different situation,” McVeigh, who is also a captain in the fire department, said.

The damage is expected to be covered by insurance. The planned upgrades and renovations are being paid for by the Stanton Fund, with no cost to the taxpayers, McVeigh said.

Meanwhile, the work on upgrading the offices in the Town Hall continues, even as it opened on Wednesday for business. Stanton Hall is expected to reopen next week.