Neighbor’s Alert Saves Lives as Charlestown Apartment Building Gutted By Fire

  • Barry Westine, right, turns away and his grandson Trent Briere, 16, left, continues watching Charlestown Firefighter Jim Snide putting out remaining hot spots in Westine's home after an early morning fire in Charlestown, N.H., Monday, November 28, 2016. After paying off his mortgage in 22 years, Westine canceled his homeowners insurance last year. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Kassidy Briere, 18, of Charlestown, hugs her grandfather Barry Westine as her sister Kolbi Briere, 17, left, of Springfield, Vt., looks on after a fire destroyed Westine's house in Charlestown, N.H. Monday, November 28, 2016. Kassidy Briere lived with her mother and two sisters in an apartment on the second floor of the house. Her mother, Mary Lewis is being treated for smoke inhalation after the family was forced to jump from a second story window to escape the fire. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 11/29/2016 10:23:52 AM
Modified: 11/29/2016 10:23:53 AM

Charlestown — The owner of a three-unit apartment house on Ox Brook Road that was gutted by fire early Monday morning credits his neighbor for getting everyone out of the house before the flames engulfed the structure.

“He saved our lives,” said Barry Westine, who owns the house at 334 Ox Brook Road and lives in the downstairs rear apartment. “When I ran out of the house, the whole outside wall was in flames and everything on the upstairs in the porch area was in flames.”

One woman was transported to Valley Regional Hospital by Golden Cross Ambulance and the other seven residents, including Westine, were not injured.

Westine’s stepdaughter, Mary Lewis, who was hospitalized, and her three daughters escaped out a second story window in the front portion of the house, according to Westine and David Nichols, the neighbor who woke up the occupants shortly after the fire started around 3:30 a.m.

“I was sleeping and I heard this popping noise,” said Nichols, whose apartment sits on the other side of the driveway separating the two structures. “I got up to see what it was and when I pulled open the curtain, I saw the flames.”

Nichols said he raced outside and began banging furiously on the windows to get everyone up.

“Thank God I woke up. Five more minutes and it could have been a real catastrophe,” Nichols said.

Nichols and Westine said the occupants on the second floor were able to jump down about 10 feet on to a picnic table to escape.

At the fire scene later in the morning, Sarah Lewis of Claremont said it was her sister, Mary, and her three daughters, ages 11, 14 and 18, who lived upstairs in the wood frame house.

Lewis said she only recently moved out of the house and her sister moved in.

Sarah Lewis said her sister was at the hospital on oxygen, adding that her nieces were “fine.”

“She tried to save her dog but he died,” Sarah Lewis said of her sister.

Lewis’ condition was not known and calls to Valley Regional Hospital were not returned.

Crystal Ward, who lived on the first floor with two others in the front of the home, was woken up by Nichols. “We’re OK,” said Ward. “As best as can be.”

Charlestown Assistant Fire Chief Mark LaFlam said they received a call around 3:30 a.m.of a fire with entrapment and when they arrived, the house was fully involved but everyone was out.

LaFlam said live power lines from the home to a utility pole across the street were hanging low, making it harder to position the trucks to fight the fire.

The fire gutted the structure, which had a metal roof on the back left side but otherwise was mostly wood. LaFlam called it a “total loss.”

The right side of the house, which is what Nichols saw when he looked out his window, is where the worst damage occurred. Fire crews spent several hours hosing down the hot spots and cutting away some roof areas with a chainsaw to be sure the flames were completely extinguished. Westine said he bought the house 23 years ago and completely remodeled it, including new electrical. As for a cause, he wasn’t sure.

“I have no idea what could have caused it,” Westine said. “It did start on the outside.”

LaFlam also said an exact cause was only speculation but thought it might be electrical.

Westine said he canceled his insurance last year after paying off the mortgage. “I had not filed a claim in 23 years.”

The home was built in 1900 and had an assessed value of $164,200, including $30,600 for the land, according to Charlestown assessing records.

Westine also owns the apartment where Nichols lives.

Red Cross officials from Keene were on hand to provide assistance to the displaced residents for their “immediate needs,” said Clifford LaPlante of the Red Cross Disaster Team. Other departments that responded were Claremont, Unity, Langdon, North Walpole, Springfield and Acworth.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com


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