Highway department regroups following devastating blaze

DANNEMORA - The new year didn't start as Howard "Pete" Barber expected.

Barber, who serves as the town's highway superintendent, received word the town garage was on fire shortly after 9 a.m. New Year's Day, and rushed there from his home less than a mile from the scene.

"I couldn't believe what I saw when I got here," said Barber. "The whole front of the building was engulfed in flames. We tried to get one of the trucks out but there was too much smoke and too much heat."

Barber said learning of the fire came as a complete surprise as he had been in contact with town employees earlier that morning who were busily clearing the roads of snow.

"I checked the roads at 4 a.m. and called men in to clean the roads. When I talked to them at about 7:40 a.m., they said everything was fine," recalled Barber.

America "Ves" Pivetta, who assumed the role of town supervisor the same day as the fire, said it was "some first day." Pivetta heard about the fire while he was at his home in Lyon Mountain and rushed to the scene.

"In the meantime, three or four fire departments were there," said Pivetta. "But, it burned everything. The main office for the highway supervisor, our records, our equipment, the lunchroom - everything. We don't even own a screwdriver. Everything's gone."

Though the cause of the fire is still under investigation, the town now faces a loss of approximately $1 million worth of equipment, said Pivetta, which includes machines such as snowplows and front-end loaders. The supervisor said he has requested the state declare a state of emergency for the town, and is awaiting word back from state representatives.

"When you lose a whole highway department, it's got to be some kind of emergency," he said.

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