Windham Fire destroys building, not business

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On May 1 around 1:30 in the morning, an electrical malfunction ignited a structural fire that consumed the D&J Excavating building on the corner of Route 302 and Vance Drive in Windham.

Neighbors phoned in the fire to the Windham Fire Department. When the fire department arrived on the scene, the blaze was burning through the roof, Fire/Rescue Chief Charlie Hammond said.

Firefighters led a defensive fight against the flame as it threatened to spread to the second half of the building. Less than 15 minutes later, the blaze ate at the buildings trusses causing the roof to collapse and suffocate most of the fire. Firefighters then worked to extinguish pockets of fire in the rubble to contain the spread of fire.

Once the fire was extinguished, only half of the building remained intact. A double Sheetrock firewall between D&J Excavating and the cabinet business next door, Signature Kitchens, had saved the second half of the building. Firefighters did have to cut a hole in the roof of Signature Kitchens in order to watch the fire and ensure its containment.

David Vance, who runs D&J Excavating with his wife Judy, had been away for the weekend doing electrical and grounds work for a hunting camp in Mars Hill when the fire started. Judy Vance was on the scene to witness the fire. David and Judy have run D&J Excavating ever since Donald and Joanne Vance, the original D&J, passed the business on to their son.

Besides a small office, D&J Excavating used the building primarily to store tools, heavy equipment and dump trucks. That equipment is now under the wreckage of the collapsed roof along with a family truck. David Vance hopes to be able to salvage some of the tools still buried in the wreckage.

This is typically the start of the season for D&J excavating. Mud season inspired road bans prevent their dump trucks from hauling over 2,000 pounds of material to excavating sites, so when these bans are lifted in the spring, that’s when the trucks start rolling. David Vance said Mother’s Day is an especially busy day for D&J as the company gets many requests for garden topsoil on the holiday.

The Vances are now waiting for the insurance company to review the case.

“If all goes well, we hope to reopen in the same area,” David said.

Until then, D&J Excavating will run its business as usual because, as Judy Vance says, “the building was destroyed, not the business.”

D&J Excavating is currently doing ground preparation work at Millbrook Nursery in Westbrook to reshape its yard.

Roof wreckage buries what remains of the D&J Excavating building. The roof collapsed after a structural fire burned its trusses.

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