Dec 292013

Groton landmark and New England foodie destination Blood Farm meat business goes up in smokeEric W. Fellows

Groton landmark and New England foodie destination Blood Farm meat business goes up in smoke

A Groton landmark, the Blood Farm slaughterhouse, smokehouse, retail store and wholesale meat business at 94 West Main Street in West Groton was destroyed by fire in the early hours of Sunday, December 30. Residential buildings on the farm, which has been in the Blood family for six generations and hundreds of years, were not damaged.

According to Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Peter Cunningham, “I was at the scene around 8:30 this morning and the main building that housed the smoke house, office, cutting/packaging room and the retail space is a total loss. The main home and the other out buildings are OK. Fire started early in the morning and was probably going for a while before noticed by a passing motorist and called in. No one was in the building at the time and there are no reported injuries.”

Groton Fire Chief Joe Bosselait said that there were strong indications were that the fire originated in the smokehouse portion of the 7,000+ square foot complex, a concrete block room built in the 1970s, Bosselait said the combination of concrete block rooms and connected under a steel roof created a technically challenging fire, in which a smoldering fire flared up when portions of the roof collapsed and open doors and windows gave the fire more oxygen. The state fire marshal’s office had investigators on the scene during and after the fire, but a cause has not yet been determined.

No animals were injured during the fire.

The Groton Fire Department was called out about 2:05 a.m. Sunday. The first firefighters on the scene reported heavy fire through the roof; mutual aid from neighboring towns was requested by the first Groton units responding. Firefighters were ordered out of the building about and a third alarm was declared, then a fourth. About 40 firefighters, including mutual aid truckes from Ayer, Townsend, Lunenburg and Pepperell, fought the fire. The fire was declared under control at 6:09 a.m. by Bosselait, but firefighters from Groton and the neighboring towns were still putting water on several hot spots all morning. While the Groton Fire Department was fully engaged, the Littleton, Shirley, and Dunstable departments covered Groton’s three fire stations.

Dick Blood, part of the Blood family business management team, hopes it will rebuildArt Campbell | The Groton Line

Dick Blood, part of the Blood family business management team, hopes it will rebuild

Dick Blood, one of owner Barney Blood’s sons and the “kill floor manager,” said, “I got a call from my cousin around 3 o’clock that the smokehouse was on fire, and when I came down … it went into the roof and kept right on going into the processing room.”

Blood said that the business was insured, and that the decision to rebuild the business was “Up to Dad and how he feels. I’d like to say ‘yes,’ but right now, Dad’s taking it quite well, and I’m hoping …”

Barney Blood, the patriarch of the family and owner of the business, is 90 and recovering from a heart operation he underwent this fall. He said that “Lots of customers have been calling and saying they hope we’ll rebuild. But it’s too soon to tell yet.”
He also expressed his appreciation to the many people in the community who asked if there was a way they could help the family, the business, or its employees. Blood said that he would talk to his employees to see what their ideas and feelings were.

Blood Farm is one of just two U.S. Food and Drug Administration slaughterhouses in Massachusetts; the other is in Athol. Because the business was so specialized, fire officials did not estimate a loss on Sunday, preferring to wait for insurance investigators to arrive and evaluate the situation.

According to a 2007 story in The Boston Globe, quoting Barney Blood, that his family has had a slaughterhouse in West Groton since before the Civil War. At that time, the business processed more than 100 animals per week.

The farm has earned a reputation among food fanciers in New England for fine quality meats, usually from animals grown on local and regional farms.

Cunningham mentioned that he had picked up his family’s Christmas ham at the farm earlier in the week. “We should extend our thoughts to the Blood family for this devastating loss to a business which has been a part of Groton’s fabric for generations. And not just Groton, but the entire region as anyone who was over there before Christmas can attest to with the wall to wall traffic from all over the area with folks there to pick up meats for the holiday.”