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Generator, Candle Blamed for Two Fires

Claremont — An unattended candle and a generator — both being used to deal with the loss of power from Sunday’s snowstorm — were blamed on two fires Monday that severely damaged a mobile home and a garage but caused no injuries.

The first fire was reported at 6:30 a.m. at 21 Brandon Place where a candle had been left in the bathroom of a mobile home while the owner went outside to shovel snow. A short time later he noticed smoke coming from his home and when he attempted to enter the home, he was forced out by heavy smoke, fire officials said in a news release.

The fire was declared under control at 7:15 a.m. The exterior of the mobile home is still standing but three rooms received heavy fire damage, and fire officials said the home is likely a “total loss.” It is owned by Richmond Durfee.

Firefighters were still cleaning up at the Brandon Place fire when they were called to a garage fire on 105 Strand Road at 8:15 a.m. The first firefighters to arrive found a long, narrow uphill driveway that first had to be plowed and sanded by the Department of Public Works before a fire truck could make it up the hill to the detached garage. At that point, the wood-framed structure had already collapsed from the flames.

Investigators determined the fire was caused by a portable generator that had been started in the garage by the owner. The owner had left the building, and when he returned, he found the blaze. The garage was also in one of the neighborhoods that had been without power Sunday night.

The building is owned by Gary Williams, according to fire officials, and it housed a couple of vehicles and numerous power tools, all of which fire officials called a “total loss.”

Residents in the Claremont area were dealing with power outages all day on Monday, and some into the evening.

Public Service of New Hampshire customers in Newport and Claremont had the most outages across the state, PSNH Spokesman Martin Murray said. About 10,000 PSNH customers statewide were without power at the height of the storm Sunday evening, and by Monday afternoon, 1,200 customers were still without power.

Murray said he expected all customers to be restored by midnight on Monday. As of 6 p.m. last night, 312 people in Claremont were still without power, 239 in Grantham and 77 in Newport. Lower number outages were reported in Enfield, where 23 people were still out Monday evening, 22 in Cornish and less than 10 outages were reported in Springfield, N.H., Unity and Croydon.

Despite the large number of outages, police and fire officials in Claremont, Newport and Grantham said they hadn’t received requests for shelters.

Sunday night’s storm brought heavy, wet snow that knocked down trees and limbs onto power lines.

During the day on Monday, about 64 line workers and nine tree crews were assigned to Newport, Claremont, Grantham and Cornish to help restore PSNH’s outages.

Independent contractors were brought in from New Hampshire and Massachusetts to help PSNH’s regular crews in the Claremont and Newport areas, Murray said.

Many of the line crews working on Monday had been called to Maine on Christmas Eve to help restore power and many were only relieved on Saturday just to be called back into work on Monday, Murray said.

Green Mountain Power also reported 22,000 outages and had restored all but 500 of them by Monday afternoon.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.