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Three Claremont Firefighters Recovering

From left, retired Capt. Cullen Downing, Capt. Chris Pixley, and Capt. Bryan Burr talk with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., at Central Fire Station in Claremont, N.H., on March 18, 2014. Shaheen's visit follows notice in January that the fire department would receive a SAFER (staffing for adequate fire and emergency) grant for over $500,000. (Valley News - Will Parson)

From left, retired Capt. Cullen Downing, Capt. Chris Pixley, and Capt. Bryan Burr talk with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., at Central Fire Station in Claremont, N.H., on March 18, 2014. Shaheen's visit follows notice in January that the fire department would receive a SAFER (staffing for adequate fire and emergency) grant for over $500,000. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »

Claremont — While they don’t expect to jump on wailing red trucks anytime soon, Andrew Stevens and Scott Kenniston cheered their fellow Claremont firefighters just by showing up at the station on Tuesday.

A little more than three weeks after they suffered burns to their upper bodies while escaping from a blaze that destroyed a house on Cherry Hill Road, Stevens — a lieutenant with 11 years on the force — and Kenniston — a firefighter for seven years in Claremont — dropped by for the visit by U.S. Sen Jeanne Shaheen.

Stevens recently returned home after undergoing treatment at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “I don’t have a timeline (for a return to work) yet,” said Stevens, whose arms and one hand are wrapped in bandages. “They’re bringing me along slowly.”

Kenniston has been undergoing outpatient treatment since Fletcher Allen Healthcare in Burlington treated him for burns to his knees, arms and torso.

“I’m hoping (to return by) mid-April,” Kenniston said. “It may stretch out to May. We’ll have to see.”

Volunteer firefighter Nick Koloski, a member of the Claremont City Council, has been sidelined with non-burn injuries that he suffered to a wrist and a thumb while helping first responders from Golden Cross Ambulance pull Stevens and Kenniston out of the house and into the driveway.

Fire officials determined that a heating lamp in a chicken coop under a deck behind the house triggered the blaze, from which owner Farogh “Ruby” Wien, his mother, his son, his sister, and his sister’s family evacuated. A “flash-over” on the second floor and in the basement of the house pushed temperatures past 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, trapping Stevens and Kenniston on the first floor and forcing them to battle their way to safety on hands and knees.

At the time of the blaze, the Fire Department had been preparing to bring aboard three new firefighters, thanks to a $550,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). While the department ideally prefers to have five firefighters available for a given shift, three were on duty on March 2.

“We think that things would have played out very differently if we’d had the additional manpower,” Fire Capt. Chris Pixley said.

Among the firefighters greeting Stevens and Kenniston on Tuesday was new hire Russell Chesanek, who previously fought fires in Bangor, Maine, at the Manchester Airport, and, for a year, for the Army in Afghanistan.

“This is my fifth shift,” Chesanek said.

On her way to her next Upper Valley stop, Shaheen urged Chesanek’s injured brethren to let the new guys handle the load while they heal.

“Take your time,” she said. “Go home. Rest.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com and at 603-727-3304.

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