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Thanksgiving blaze offers more reasons to be grateful

STARKSBORO — Starksboro resident Lausanne Allen had a little something else to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: her home didn’t burn down.
As they exited the house on Frank Orvis Road to join friends down the street for their Thanksgiving feast, she and husband Brian Anderson noticed smoke pouring out of their adjacent workshop building.
“I’ve got my fiddle in one hand and the pie in the other, and we’re thinking do we take the car?,” said Allen. “If we had taken the car, we would have probably not seen the fire … But we decided to walk. And as we got close to the shop, we could see the smoke rolling out over the door and knew something was really wrong.”
Anderson crawled in under the flames far enough to investigate and when he returned Allen ran into the house to call 911 and to grab two “mosquito size” kitchen fire extinguishers.
Soon firefighters from Starksboro, Lincoln and Bristol were on the scene, unrolling hoses and battling the blaze.
Ironically, one of the first firefighters on the scene, Jake Orvis from the Lincoln Fire Department, had a family member for whom Allen had organized a benefit following a devastating fire some years ago. Orvis donned his protective gear and was ready to enter the fire before the hose on the Starksboro tanker could even be unfurled, Allen said. A tanker truck and crew from New Haven responded as well and parked nearby in case it was needed.
Allen said that the outpouring of caring from friends and neighbors and the speed with which local firefighters left their family celebrations to attend to duty has left she and Anderson feeling deeply grateful.
It reminds you, said Allen, “that you live in a community and that when you need someone at your back they’re there for you.”
Nonetheless, Allen explained that it’s important to she and her husband to take care of the fire’s aftermath themselves.
“We try to take care of ourselves, and it’s gratifying that we have so many friends who’ve offered to give us help, but we’re just taking care of it,” she said.
The workshop that caught fire is central to the couple’s work. Anderson, a well-known blacksmith, has his forge in the downstairs part of the building. Allen’s weaving and spinning studio is upstairs.
The insurance adjuster offered them a professional service to clean out the burned area. But it’s important to Allen and Anderson to sift through every single thing by hand, Allen said. The couple have begun going through the two floors of the workshop, seeing what is salvageable and what must be thrown away.
Allen says that they hope to have gone through things enough that by the spring they can consider beginning repairs on the building itself.
The couple believes the fire began from a spark off a grinder.
“My husband for every day of the last 50 Thanksgivings has always worked in his shop on Thanksgiving morning and this was no different. He was over in his shop working with a grinder grinding on some metal and one of the sparks must have flown into something that smoldered,” said Allen.
The heaviest damage is on the ground floor of the workshop, where Anderson has his tools and other objects associated with his long career as an artisan.
Despite these losses, Allen’s response remains focused on gratitude. Just two hours after they had first set off for their Thanksgiving celebration, the couple made their way down the road to their friend’s house.
“It was one of the most moving Thanksgiving Day speeches I’ve ever given at the dinner table, I’ll tell you that,” said Allen. “You don’t feel gratitude like that so deeply as when you know that you could have gone by that smoldering fire and come home to a hole in the ground with nothing in it but coals … We would have probably lost the total building, everything in it.”
Allen also noted that however much she and Anderson might have lost in the fire, it made them deeply aware of others around the world who have lost even more — with no safety net in place.
“Our shop is a wonderful part of what we’ve had here. And it certainly is sad to have it suffering the way it looks right now. But it’s a luxury, in the scope of things. If we lived in Syria and our next door building were bombed out, we’d be running for our lives, and we wouldn’t be calling 911.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].

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