City home uninhabitable after fire, no one hurt

LACONIA — Despite the timely response of firefighters, fire destroyed a wooden shed as well as damaged a two-story home and attached garage at 24 Beaman St. yesterday, leaving it uninhabitable.

The homeowner repeatedly said to firefighters "I can't believe how fast the fire spread," according to the Laconia Fire Department's press release.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said the department received several reports of fire shortly before 1:30 p.m., and six firefighters from Central Station arrived "within minutes" to find the rear of building fully engulfed by a fire that had begun to spread to the house and garage, as well as through fallen leaves toward an abutting property on Rowell Street. He said firefighters ran a two-and-half inch hose, pumping 300 gallons of water a minute, to the back of the building "and stopped the fire dead in its tracks." Firefighters ran a second two-inch hose into a side door of the house which slowed the progress and ultimately extinguished fire that spread from the rear of the building along the soffits.

One man who was in the building when the fire started had left safely by the time firefighters reached the scene. No one was injured.

Erickson said that it was not clear whether the fire began inside or outside the rear of the building, but noted that along with the shed and garage a porch at the back of the house was severely damaged. He estimated the value of the damage to exceed $70,000. According to, the property last sold in December 2014 for $62,500. It is a duplex with a garage and workshop space.

Laconia firefighters were assisted by crews from Belmont, Gilford, Franklin, Meredith, Tilton-Northfield, Franklin and Sanbornton.

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Passing the Torah - Rabbi Boaz Heilman installed at Temple B'Nai Israel

LACONIA — "I've just been following my own path," said Rabbi Boaz Heilman, who last week was installed as the rabbi at Temple B'nai Israel, which has been the hub of Jewish religious and social life in central New Hampshire for the past century.

Rabbi Heilman's path has taken him from Israel to America and back again, where he has left his mark as a pianist, teacher and medic with the Israel Defense Forces while slaking an appetite for hiking and honing an eye for photography. With his rich experience and diverse talents, Rabbi Heilman is an ideal fit with what Barbara Morgenstern, a member of the board, called "our interesting, eclectic congregation."

Rabbi Heilman was born in Israel in 1949, and in 1961 came with his family to the United States, where he trained as a classical pianist. He studied at the University of California at Los Angeles and earned a bachelor's degree in  music in 1971 and an artist diploma in 1973 before rejoining his family in Israel. For the next four years, he performed and recorded as well as fulfilled his military duty. Returning the United States in 1977 to pursue his musical career, he earned his master's degree at the University of Cincinnati in 1979, and a year later married Sally Firestone, a rabbinic student at Hebrew Union College.

IN 1995, Rabbi Heilman followed his wife's footsteps, enrolling in the rabbinic program at Hebrew Union College in New York, where he was awarded a master of arts degree in Hebrew literature and was ordained a rabbi in 1998. From 1995 to 1998 he served as Rabbinic Leader of the Congregation B'nai Torah in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and afterwards as its rabbi until this past June, when the sanctuary was named in his honor.

"We found each other," Rabbi Heilman said of his coming to Temple B'nai Israel. "I was reaching the end of my tenure in Sudbury after 20 years," he said, "adding I wasn't ready to go to Florida and play golf. I can't hit a ball to save my life."
He said that he wanted to remained engaged, but also have time for teaching, study and music as well as "my other hobbies."

Rabbi Heilman said that the schedule calls for him to spend two weekends at Temple B'nai Israel a month.

"That's the schedule," he said, "but that's not in our hands."

Meanwhile, he will continued to teach two dozen adult education courses — "history, anti-semitism, theology, anything to do with Judaism and Israel" — and study. "In order to teach," he said, "you've got to learn." He is also writing a commentary on the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, the source of Jewish law and wisdom.

As for hiking, Rabbi Heilman said he has already climbed in the Belknap Mountains and to the top of Mount Major. "I plan to continue," he said, extolling the beauty of New Hampshire. "When God sets to work," he noted, "He really does a magnificent job and we can only stand and admire it."



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J.D. the barber glad to be back in downtown Laconia

LACONIA — John Downs says he's glad to be back in downtown Laconia at a new location on Pleasant Street where he's getting to see his old customers coming back to him.
Downs has spent 19 years cutting hair, most of them in Laconia, and said that in his first three months at J.D.'s Barbershop, he's gotten 90 percent of his old customers back.
''It's nice to see that kind of loyalty. And it doesn't hurt that I'm the first one on the block and have a very visible location,'' said Downs, who most recently worked in Meredith running the former Dick's Barbershop, where he said business was fine during the summer but dropped off rapidly after Labor Day.
''I decided to come back to Laconia,'' said Downs, who was forced out of his Busy Corner location by a fire in January of 2014 and said he'll always be grateful to fellow downtown barber Dan Barbary, who invited him to come and work with him after the fire.
He says he's also glad to have Dwight Barton as his landlord again and said that at one of his former locations, when his lease expired, he was able to move into a new location owned by Barton for $800 a month less than former landlord was asking for.


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