By Tom Eastman
BARTLETT — The historic Kearsarge Peg Co. peg mill located at 14 Mill St. burned in a four-alarm fire in Bartlett Village early Friday afternoon.
Cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Bartlett Fire Chief Pat Roberts. He said water was drawn from the Saco River to help fight the fire in addition to village hydrants.
"We were worried that villagers might lose their water (from the town water supply through hydrants), so we had two tanker trucks go over to the Saco and use water from there," said Roberts Friday evening, as crews continued to apply water to hot spots.
Units responding included Bartlett, Jackson, Conway, North Conway, Redstone and Tamworth Fire Departments, and Bartlett Jackson Ambulance Service. No injuries were reported. Roberts said the building was a total loss.
The company is owned by Paul W. Soares of Bartlett and Osterville, Mass., and employed four workers, according to Soares.
Soares said he first came on board as a consultant for the Davidson family, the former owners, in the 1980s, and bought the business in 2001.
He said 20 percent of the company's business consisted of creating wooden pegs out of white birch and the rest was creating polishing/finishing media. "That means people would ship us stuff, and we would polish it here," said Soares.
He said the building was not insured.
He remained positive, despite the loss. Most of all, he is happy that no one was hurt.
"We had an order worth about $25,000 to $30,000 waiting to be shipped out in the next few days. What are you going to do? I just told the young guy that ran into the building with me today when we heard about the fire, Darren Barrows, that we are going to do something. This isn't the end — I'll come up with something," he said, adding, "I told Nancy and Joe Keleman of the North Colony Motel, where I stay when I am up here, when they saw me today that I seemed upbeat. I said what are you going to do, cry? That does no good."
Norman Head of the Bartlett Historical Society said the peg mill has been in continuous operation at the Bartlett site since 1878. A fire destroyed the first plant in 1910, after which it was rebuilt in 1911. "It's sad to see another piece of Bartlett history go," said Head.
Updated from print version Friday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m.