Fire destroys building used as art studio at Juniper Hill Farm in Shutesbury

Last modified: Thursday, November 07, 2013
SHUTESBURY — An outbuilding used as an art studio at Juniper Hill Farm, 45 Schoolhouse Road, burned to the ground by the time firefighters arrived Friday afternoon.

A woodstove had been left burning overnight in the building, said Christopher Hasbrouck, a captain in the on-call Shutesbury Fire Department. The structure “was completely down with hardly any smoke — it was free burning,” he said.

No injuries were reported.

Hasbrouck described the building as an “8-by-10-foot shack” without electricity which contained mostly oil paintings and clay pots. It also had a woodstove that was left burning after people were using the building until shortly before midnight Thursday, he said.

In a brief interview Friday night, owner Alisande Cunningham Sweeney said of the structure that burned, “It’s just an outbuilding.” She added that the loss included, “My very first paintings. It was an art studio. I’m still reeling from this. It’s just very unfortunate.”

Seventeen firefighters and equipment from Amherst, Leverett, Pelham, Wendell, New Salem, Montague and Orange responded to the blaze, according to Pelham Fire Chief Raymond A. Murphy Jr. It was reported about 2:05 p.m.

The structure was accessible via a rutted dirt path from the home where Sweeney lives. Residents were trying to drag a garden hose to the fire when Hasbrouck arrived.

The path leading to the outbuilding was too small for fire trucks to pass. Firefighters ran a hose from a pump truck parked in Sweeney’s driveway, which relayed water from a tanker truck parked on Schoolhouse Road. It was closed to through traffic for about two hours.

Hasbrouck said firefighters sprayed 3,200 gallons of water on the burning pile of rubble, as well as foam which “helps the water get down to the hot spots.” The fire was unlikely to ignite the surrounding woods because it rained most of Thursday, said Hasbrouck. “We weren’t concerned, but we were looking,” he added.

Juniper Hill Farm, which is run by Sweeney, is identified on the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture website as “a nine-acre educational farm offering classes in sustainable living, gardening, herbal medicine, and humane livestock management.”