By Hollis O’Brien
TOWNSEND- After nearly 60 years of devotion to his cabinet business, Jim Craven of Homes By Craven watched his livelihood go up in flames.
Monday morning started as normal as any other for Jim, but around 9 a.m. on February 14, his life changed. Jim and one of his workers were busy at work in his cabinet shop on West Meadow Road when they noticed the furnace room had caught fire. Jim said there was not much time to save anything and go out of the building as quickly as possible.
There was not much to do once the flames engulfed the building. They could only stand and watch. Burning inside was not only hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of tools and lumber, but also decades of memorabilia. Jim’s daughter Debi said there were tools inside that Jim’s father had used; tools nearly a century old.
“It is a tragedy that we all feel. I worked in the shop alongside my dad for 17 yrs. It will be really hard for my dad to lose all his tools and his designs and patterns that he has had for so long,” said Debi.
Jim spent much of his life in his shop. Many of his employees became longtime friends. His own kids even helped build the shop.
“It’s devastating. Just heartbreaking,” said daughter Cherie, in tears. “I remember helping build this place block by block when I was a kid.”
The cause of the fire has not yet been pinpointed. “It’s still under investigation but at this time it doesn’t look suspicious,” said Townsend Fire Chief Donald Klein told the Lowell Sun. “It took us about 2 1/2 hours to bring it under control. Right now, according to the fire marshal, we think it might have started with the oil-burning furnace, but the damage was so great, we can’t officially call it that.”
Two firefighters from the Townsend department were sent to the Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer. Both were treated and released for minor injuries, according to Klein.
After the devastation of his shop, Jim is unsure as to whether or not he will rebuild.
“He is of retirement age, but never expresses the desire to stop working. I am sure he will keep on going” said his sister Dorothy Craven.