3 Houlton businesses destroyed in fire are trying to figure out next steps

8 months ago

HOULTON, Maine — Three Houlton businesses destroyed in a Tuesday night fire at the Houlton International Airport are still reeling from the shock as they wrestle with what comes next.  

The businesses leveled by the blaze are Family Roots, a medical marijuana dispensary; Tiny Homes of Maine, a tiny home manufacturer; and HSC Auctions, an online auction house for estate furnishings. 

The Houlton Fire Department and 29 firefighters responded to the call just before 8 p.m., according to Fire Chief Milton Cone. 

These successful businesses have all been important to Houlton’s economic growth for many years and if they are unable to continue, it would be a huge loss to the town, according to town officials, who have reached out to see if there is a way to help.  

A structure fire Tuesday night at an old hangar at the Houlton International Airport destroyed three businesses. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

HSC Auctions just moved to the airport location in August, although it has been in business for many years. Amy Carmicheal, who co-owns the business with Matt Carr,  heard about the structure fire on a police scanner and she and Carr raced to the airport to see if their business was OK. 

“When I saw it, I was just devastated. Everything we had been working for was gone,” she said. “We were the fullest we have ever been. These pieces were so old and in beautiful pristine condition.”

They had built their inventory before winter and just recently cleaned out multiple estates. There were enough pieces and artwork for auctions through next May. The fire destroyed everything, she said. 

The auction house held weekly online auctions with 200 to 300 pieces of furnishings, antique art, housewares, tools, linens and more. This week’s upcoming auction was beautiful art, Carmichael said. 

“It just blows my mind to think of it,” she added. 

HSC Auctions will try to start over if they can find a building with about 5,000 to 6,000 square feet for storage and another 2,000 square feet for the auction hall. 

A structure fire Tuesday night at an old hangar at the Houlton International Airport destroyed three businesses. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Emma Willigar, who has co-owned Family Roots medical marijuana dispensary for eight years with her husband John Willigar, got a call that the hangar was on fire at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, she said.

With the help of the Houlton Fire Department, the Willigars saved most of the product in the shop and one crop of plants almost ready for harvest, she said. But another large crop was destroyed by the intense heat, John Willigar said.

“We lost pretty much everything,” he said. “But I think we’ll be OK.”

The Willigars’ business, like many marijuana dispensaries, was not insured, they said. 

Emma Willigar said several people have already called to see if they can still get their medicine. The store will deliver to people within a 10- to 20-mile radius, she said. To reach the dispensary regarding prescriptions, call John, 207-521-1293; Emma, 207-521-1527; or the shop at 207-538-7336.

Like the other two businesses, Tiny Homes of Maine also lost everything including materials, tools and several homes under construction. The fire department pulled two completed homes ready for delivery next week away from the blaze, the company officials said. 

Someone from Smith & Wesson, located near the old hangar, called Tiny Homes of Maine almost as soon as the fire call went out, they said. But by the time staff arrived, almost everything was lost. 

The company was getting ready to relocate into a facility in Dyer Brook for the winter because the hangar was not heated, owner Corinne Watson said. She plans to meet with her team to determine next steps, she said.

Tiny Homes of Maine has 12 employees. 

A structure fire Tuesday night at an old hangar at the Houlton International Airport destroyed three businesses. John Willigar, co-owner of Family Roots medical marijuana dispensary looks at the damage at the rear of his business. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

In August, the manufacturing facility received the final funding piece for a 12,000-square-foot $1.87 million expansion. The funding came from the Northern Border Regional Commission.   

The town has contacted the Maine Department of Labor regarding assistance for employees who may be out of work, Houlton Director of Community Development Nancy Ketch said Wednesday.  

Department of Labor representatives will be available from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursday, Sept. 21, at the Houlton Town Office for employees affected by the fire. The DOL staff can provide information and help people file unemployment claims, Ketch said.

The fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.