GORHAM – An outpouring of kindness from the Gorham community has buoyed spirits at Town & Country Cabinets, which hopes to resume some business operations this month after a disastrous fire two weeks ago.

About 40 townspeople pitched in to help expedite salvage and clean up.

“People were amazing,” said Carol Short of Buxton, an employee at her family’s Gorham business, located at 420 Fort Hill Road.

Her brother, David Smith, and their mother, Grace Smith, own the business that produces custom cabinets, furniture and a variety of other wood products.

Short said the company is rebuilding exactly the way it was.

“We are optimistic that we will have some operations up and running by the end of April,” Short said.

A three-alarm fire on March 25 extensively damaged the facility, a former canning factory. As the building burned, Short and her mother, Grace Smith of Gorham, sat on a highway guardrail across the road and watched firefighters from several communities battle the blaze.

“It was heartbreaking for my mother,” Short said.

Short’s parents, Ronald and Grace Smith, relocated their business from Portland to Gorham in 1981. Short said her father passed away in September. “My dad loved this place,” Short said.

Natives of Gorham, David Smith graduated from Gorham High School in 1983 and his sister graduated in 1985.

Short said her parents had poured “blood, sweat and tears” into the building. “Dad is not letting this place go,” Short remembered saying when she sat on the guardrail.

Officials blamed an exhaust fan in a wing loft as the origin of the fire. Short, her brother, two employees and a pet escaped the fire. There were no injuries.

The building’s wing sustained heavy damage, but its walls remain standing. As it turned out, much of the facility’s main section and most of its equipment had been saved.

Short discovered the fire. “I saw a little curl of smoke,” she said.

One of the employees, Jason Spaulding of Hiram, said he went to the loft, opened the door and the area was filled with smoke. “I couldn’t see past my arm,” Spaulding said.

Then, Spaulding heard people hollering to get out of the building. Short said her brother ran back into the building for a computer and she dashed in to retrieve bookkeeping records.

Short said her brother’s dog, Lenny, was carried to safety by employee Joyce Pfoh of Sebago.

“A series of fortunate events got us out of the building and is going to get us back into it,” Spaulding said.

While the fire was raging, Gorham Sand and Gravel responded with an excavator when firefighters needed a roof peeled away.

Short said Mike Phinney of Phinney Lumber in Gorham offered to store the cabinet shop’s lumber, and three trailer loads of wood inventory were hauled there.

David Smith said two 4-H clubs – Young Farmers and the Red and White Faces – were among volunteers. Others dropped off hot chocolate, coffee and cookies.

On Tuesday, rainwater pooled on the floors, while carpenters were busy. David Smith was working from a bucket on a crane stretched out over the roof of the main section of the building. Smith was up there with Mike Haskell, an employee of Mark Cooper, who is in charge of construction.

Inside the building, planks braced walls.

Grace Smith walked through the building and viewed work progress on Tuesday. “It could have been worse,” she said.

She recalled a previous disaster when their business was flooded in 1991 by Hurricane Bob. A mark on a beam in the shop reveals the height of the floodwater.

Plans this week call for removing the roof over the second story, which housed offices, and to weatherproof the floor. The company hopes to resume some operations this month while the second story is reconstructed. It hopes to have its finishing area operational by May.

“The plan is working pretty well so far,” Short said. “I’m feeling pretty optimistic. This is week 2 since the fire.”

Carol Short of Town & Country Cabinets in Gorham shows what’s left of a wing of the building on Tuesday, following a three-alarm fire two weeks ago. The company hopes to resume some operations this month. See story, page 16.  

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