After an early-morning fire destroyed the main building at Murray Farm and threatened his greenhouses, David Murray knew there was no time to panic.
He couldnt afford to – the building housing the businesss water pumps, boilers and generators was nothing more than a twisted hunk of metal roofing and a pile of debris by mid-Wednesday morning. The fire had also damaged adjacent greenhouses that included part of Murrays spring crop.
If those greenhouses werent capped, and heat, water and electricity werent restored, the April chill would kill the plants by nightfall.
A long time ago, right out of high school, I was an aide in an ER, Murray said, taking a moment to charge his phone in his home. So when an emergency happens, the best thing you gotta do is maintain a cool head. The minute people become emotionally charged and start making the wrong, fast decisions, it cannot be good.
All of Concords fire personnel, including several off-duty members, responded to the scene at 115 River Road about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, after a neighbor across the Contoocook River spotted the fire and called 911.
They arrived to see one building heavily consumed by fire, with the blaze encroaching on other structures. Although the Contoocook River is across the street, the steepness of the banks made accessing the water difficult, said Concord fire Deputy Chief Aaron McIntire. A portable tank operation helped to supply the large amounts of water needed to bring the fire under control.
The blaze was considered under control by about 6 a.m., although Concord fire personnel would be at the scene throughout the day attempting to determine the cause and removing debris. During the course of the incident, a firefighter from a mutual aid department experienced a non-life-threatening medical emergency at the scene and was transported to Concord Hospital for evaluation, according to a Concord fire news release.
Almost two dozen mutual aid companies from the surrounding area responded to the incident, according to Concord fire. River Road was closed for most of Wednesday morning while fire personnel were on scene.
In the end, the greenhouses closest to the building were partially melted by the heat and smoke, and the shingles of one of the propertys houses were melted. Two trailers and another, smaller building were also destroyed.
The damage to the plants was much subtler. The heat and smoke extended only about 15 feet past the front of the greenhouses, leaving curled and blanched plants in their wake. Beyond them, rows of budding perennials sat undisturbed.
Not long after the fire was out, Murray was in the thick of the action raking up debris and giving orders to troops of friends and family who rushed to the farm where his family had worked for several decades.
When two people knocked on his door looking to help, Murray spoke with pure New England frankness: he needed strapping, battery-powered grills and self-drilling, self-tapping hex-head screws, ¾ of an inch, that would drive into the greenhouses steel frames and help secure the covering.
The reality of farming is very simple: Youve got to understand management, chemistry, engineering, logistics, plumbing, electrical, watering, entomology, he said. … The reality is, youve got to flip hats really, really fast.
Its easy for Murray to know what the farm needs. He lives in the house where his father was born more than 100 years ago, when the farm still raised chickens. Before that, the 80-acre parcel of land was a dairy farm, switching from livestock to plants in 1964.
The farm is much older than his family – city records indicate some buildings date to 1789. The building that burned used to be a hatchery, Murray said, and dates to the 1940s.
But its clear the Murrays are entrenched in the land. Davids nephew, Scott, co-owns the greenhouse business with David Murray, and the land is in a family trust. Much of the family still lives in Concord; Murrays son lives in the shingle-scorched house.
Amanda Murray, David Murrays daughter, stopped by with her three children in tow. Its really kind of sad, she said, looking at the greenhouses on the land where she grew up. This farm is really all thats left of my grandma.
When he wasnt directing workers and surveying the damage, David Murray was fielding phone calls and text messages from worried friends and local businesses, asking him what kind of help he needed – and if Dickie, the greenhouse cat, was okay. (He is.)
Im okay. Its been a tough day, a real tough day, Murray said, leaning against a hallway beam in his home. You still have to look at it as, nobody died, nobody got seriously hurt.
If all goes well, Murray said the greenhouses will still hit their end of April target opening date – a little singed, but still standing.
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A New Hampshire firefighter was injured as crews battled a 4-alarm fire that destroyed several greenhouses at a family-run gardening business in Concord.
Officials confirm the fire started at about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and firefighters said flames reached 50-100 feet high at the Murray Farm Greenhouse.
All of Concords off-duty firefighters were called to join crews, according to officials. Firefighters from nearly two dozen other departments were called in, too.
Concord Fire Chief Dan Andrus said a firefighter from a mutual aid company was taken to a hospital for a medical emergency. Hes expected to recover.
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The farm has been in the Murray family since 1904, and the greenhouse business started operating in 1964, according to Concord fire officials.