Retired Chief, Wife Killed in N.H. House Fire

Bridgewater, n.h. — A retired fire chief and his wife were killed early Monday in a fire in their home in eastern Grafton County.

The state Fire Marshal’s Office said Paul W. Morrill Sr., 72, and his wife, Betty Jane Morrill, 68, died of smoke inhalation in the fire at their 657 River Road home in Bridgewater.

The fire was accidental and was caused by a “compromise in the chimney liner/mortar, which led to a partition fire that ultimately spread to other parts of the building,” a news release from the Fire Marshal’s Office said.

Authorities said “the investigation revealed no evidence of any criminal intent.”

Firefighters were called to the scene at about 12:40 a.m. Monday and found the couple on the first floor of the house, which is near the Pemigewasset River and dates to the Colonial era.

Paul Morrill was fire chief in Bridgewater in 1975, starting the fire department. Neighbors said the two recently celebrated their 50th anniversary.

“They did quickly locate them and remove them to the exterior of the building,” Keith Rodenhiser of the state Fire Marshal’s office said.

“Unfortunately, the occupants were already deceased.”

Longtime Bridgewater Selectman Skip Jenness, who lives a couple of miles away on River Road, said the couple “had a little farm there with some animals, and grew their own vegetables.”

“They’ve lived in town their whole lives,” he added.

State Fire Marshal William Degnan said that if working smoke detectors were present and if all exits were unblocked, the deaths may not have happened.

“Several of the exits were obstructed,” Rodenhiser said.

John Gregg can be reached at Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.