Flames rip through the Weld General Store early Monday. Owner Jerry Nering escaped the living quarters unharmed. Phillips Fire Department photo

WELD — The owners of the Weld General Store lost their business early Monday in a fire that leveled one of the oldest continuing businesses in Franklin County, according to officials.

A sign from the Weld General Store leans against a utility pole Monday morning following a fire that destroyed the store and living quarters in Weld. Sun Journal photo by Donna M. Perry

It was not insured.

It’s “a devastating loss for our whole community,” Sean Minear, president of the Weld Historical Society, wrote in an email.

Jerry Nering, who said he owns the store at 1 School St. with his wife, Dot, escaped the burning building at about 3:20 a.m., when the fire was reported.

“Jerry observed fire coming out of a propane heater downstairs after he awoke,” state fire investigator Jeremy Damren said.

Nering got out safely.

However, it was unknown if two cats did, state fire investigator Jeremy Damren said.

He said the cause of the blaze is undetermined because of the extent of the damage, but there is no indication it was suspicious.

“When firefighters arrived, we saw flames in the upstairs windows,” Fire Chief  Corey Hutchinson said. “Once it took off, it took off.”

The building was one of the oldest in town, he said.

Nering sold beverages, dry goods, canned goods and had a gift shop, Hutchinson said.

He expressed gratitude to firefighters from Phillips, Carthage, Temple, Strong, Jay, Dixfield, Wilton and Peru, who helped battle the blaze.

Minear said the store was built by Franklin Morrison in 1816, and was the oldest continuous business in Franklin County. It served as the town post office for many years.

Weld firefighters spray water on fire debris Monday morning after a fire ripped through the Weld General Store at 1 School St. in Weld. Sun Journal photo by Donna M. Perry

It’s “hard to wrap one’s head around such heartbreak,” he wrote.

The store stood at the the intersection of School, Mill and Church streets, and Center Hill Road.

“It’s a landmark,” resident Debbie Smith said. “This must have gone up so damn fast, as old as it was.”

NOTE: The name of the Fire Chief is Corey Hutchinson. The first name was reported incorrectly in an initial online story.

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