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Firefighters help retrieve old pharmacy files from burned out Van Buren building

VAN BUREN, Maine — Local firefighters and other volunteers worked together Tuesday evening to assist John Hebert, owner of Hebert Rexall Pharmacy, recover important and historical files from under the rubble of his downtown building that burned down Sunday.

The fire at 72 and 74 Main Street, which was reported at about 9:30 a.m. Sunday, caused officials to shut off power and close off a portion of Main Street as about 60 firefighters from Van Buren, Grand Isle, and Limestone, and from across the St. John River in St. Leonard, New Brunswick, kept pouring water onto the structures to prevent the fire spreading to neighboring buildings.

Van Buren Fire Chief Brian Caron said he did not believe there was anything suspicious about the fire, but a cause has yet to be determined.

The fire destroyed both buildings, including the structure at 74 Main Street, where the Hebert Rexall Pharmacy used to be. Hebert moved the pharmacy to 31 Main Street in June of 2018 but retained ownership of the other building which the family still used for storage and rented out to a martial arts business.

Van Buren firefighters and other volunteers work together on April 9 to retrieve important files from the basement of a downtown building that burned down two days earlier and that once housed the old Hebert pharmacy. (Courtesy of Brian Caron)

John Hebert said his grandfather bought the building and an existing pharmacy at 74 Main Street in 1942. The grandfather reopened Findlen Drug after a brief 5 month closure.

“Prior to that closure, prescriptions had been filled at that location since 1903. Herbert Hackett, the Valley’s first licensed pharmacist, rented the building in 1903,” Hebert wrote in an email Monday. “With the exception of that 5 month closure in 1942, prescriptions were filled in an unbroken line until June 24, 2018, when we moved to our current location.”

The name changed to Hebert Rexall in 1976.

While the building was insured, Hebert said there were still a lot of historical items in the old building, including the soda fountain and its fixtures.

On Tuesday night, firefighters and other volunteers were able to access the basement of the property and retrieve pharmacy files dating back to 1903.

“We just wanted to help John Hebert recover his pharmaceutical files that he must keep per certain laws governing prescriptions and also some files that dated back to 1903,” Caron said Thursday. “And we wanted to make sure that everything and everyone in and around would be safe in doing so.”

John Hebert was not immediately available for comment Thursday afternoon.

Earlier in the week, however, he said, “We are very sad to have lost our historic pharmacy, but are blessed and thankful to be a part of such a supportive community. The outpouring of support has been tremendous.”

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