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Fire guts historic barn in Fairhaven

FAIRHAVEN — A four-alarm fire destroyed a historic barn here Wednesday morning, and officials were trying to deter­mine the cause of the blaze.

The fire tore through the barn on the property of a landscaping company on Route 6 that is run by G. Bourne Knowles at around 7:30 a.m.

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Knowles, at the scene, said he initially saw a small amount of smoke that smelled like an electrical motor burning.

“I was in the process of getting the crews out when, all of a sudden, I looked up and saw flames coming through the roof of the old barn that we have here,’’ said Knowles, who added that the barn was built in the late 19th century. “And the rest is history.’’

By Wednesday night, the blaze had not been linked to a string of recent arson fires south of Boston that have ­destroyed more than 12 abandoned or unoccupied structures. Officials said the cause of the Fairhaven fire remained ­under investigation.

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“Investigators have posted the Arson Hotline number on the building, not because they have determined the fire was intentionally set, but because they hope someone may have seen something that can help them make their cause determination,” State Fire Marshal ­Stephen D. Coan said.

Coan’s office is working with local police and fire departments, as well as state and federal law enforcement agencies, to try to apprehend whoever is responsible for the series of ­arsons, which began in September.

Officials said Wednesday that while there were no injuries at the scene of the Fairhaven fire, a fire truck respond­ing to the blaze from another town was involved in an accident with another vehicle.

Peter Pereira/The Standard-Times/AP

Ruth Nicolaci embraced her son, Fire Lieutenant G. Bourne Knowles, Wednesday after he helped in the fight to save the Fairhaven landscaping business she started with Knowles’s father. Officials are working to determing the cause of the fire.

Four firefighters suffered minor injuries, and the woman driving the other vehicle was taken to Rhode Island Hospital, authorities said. A Fairhaven fire dispatcher said the woman’s injuries were not life-threatening.

The dispatcher also confirmed that one of the Fairhaven firefighters who ­responded to the blaze was Knowles’s son.

Fairhaven Fire Chief Timothy Francis said the fire had dealt a blow to the historical fabric of the town.

“It is always sad when we lose part of our history, and this barn has been part of Fairhaven for about 100 years,” Francis said.

Fairhaven Police Chief ­Michael Myers urged anyone with information about the fire to call the local police or fire depart­ments or the statewide Arson Hotline at 800-682-9229.

Also Wednesday, the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, the statewide union for firefighters, announced it was offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the recent ­arsons.

John R. Ellement of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent George Rizer contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@
globe.com
. Follow him on
Twitter @TAGlobe.
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