LUMBER COMPANY FIRE—Upper photo shows flames as they raged through Friend Lumber Co. building during height of blaze early Sunday. Lower photo shows ruins after flames were extinguished. Despite the heavy loss, the company is continuing operations. (Eugene McLean Photo)

A general alarm fire that raged through the Friend Lumber Company plant on Route 1 early Sunday morning caused an estimated $100,000 damage and brought help from the Dedham, Walpole, and Westwood fire departments before being brought under control.

The blaze, of undetermined origin, is being investigated by Lt. Detective Jeremiah Sullivan of the State Fire Marshal’s Office:

The fire, the most spectacular in the local area in recent years, completely gutted the 150-foot-long plant that was filled with finished lumber, builders’ supplies and paints which fed the flames and attracted a large crowd as the flames and billows of smoke swept across Route 1 and caused police to shut off the highway.

Piles of lumber stored in the yard of the firm were untouched by the flames.

The fire was discovered by a passing motorist who telephoned an alarm to the Norwood fire station at 1 01 a m. Sunday. When the first apparatus arrived at the scene under the command of Lt. John Howard, flames were already breaking through a section of the roof in the middle of the structure He ordered the recall whistle to be sounded at the fire station that called all off-duty men back to work and also called upon Westwood. Dedham and Walpole for assistance The Walpole apparatus under Fire Chief Aaron Hill “filled in” at the Norwood fire station as Westwood and Dedham helped battle the blaze.

Norwood Fire Chief Harry Butler, Deputy Chief Irving Dobson, and Capt. Joseph McCormack, who were off-duty, also responded and helped direct the firefighters. Three hose lines were laid from hydrants across Route 1 near Morse Street and at the Factory Mutual plant and police were detailed to shut off all Route 1 traffic away from the scene of the fire. Traffic was re-routed down Dean street and at Sumner Street. State Police from the Foxboro barracks aided the local police with the traffic problem.

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The manager of the lumber company plant, John A. Kelly, was called from his home on Second Street and he was able to save some of the company books before the flames ate their way into the office of the firm in the front of the building. He notified one of the owners of the company who have another plant in Medford, Isaac Carny, who rushed over the road from Newton to witness the fire and confer with manager Kelly over plans to keep the plant open despite the fire and to fill orders of their customers from their Medford plant.

Firemen were able to save two of three trucks that were garaged in the rear of the building. The two trucks driven from the path of the flames were promised to the Norwood Lions Club and the Norwood Council, Knights of Columbus, for use in the Fourth of July parade.

Town Manager Walter Blasenak was at the scene and conferred with Martin Feeney of the Water Dept, and was assured that there was an ample supply of water to feed the hundreds of feet of hose lines used to battle the fire.

Howard Casler, local Red Cross disaster officer, called his Boston headquarters and a Red Cross truck equipped to serve coffee and donuts to the firefighters arrived during the blaze.

Firemen were at the scene until long after daybreak. The hose lines that had been stretched across Route 1 and causing the traffic detour, were shut down momentarily while they were pulled through a culvert under Route 1 and the busy Boston-Providence highways reopened to traffic both North and South soon afterwards.

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Norwood Police Chief Mark Folan ordered all off-duty policemen who could be located to appear at the fire scene. Several of the firemen who were on vacation responded to the recall alarm.

(All articles were originally published in the Norwood Messenger unless otherwise noted)

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