Fire displaces Newport residents

By JOHN LIPPMAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 11-14-2023 4:16 AM

NEWPORT — A trio of residential fires in Grafton and Sullivan counties kept firefighters busy over the weekend, with numerous departments providing mutual aid during multi-alarm calls within hours of each other.

The first was a two-alarm fire at a six-unit apartment building located at 93 North Main St. in Newport that has closed the building and required the building’s 10 residents to vacate and find alternative accommodations until utilities are restored.

Newport Fire Department responded to a call at 9:04 p.m. on Friday of a fire that was ignited when an apartment resident was cooking on the stove, Newport deputy fire chief David McCrillis said on Monday.

The resident in the apartment where the fire started suffered second degree burns and was treated at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, reported McCrillis, who said eight fire departments from other towns also responded to the scene, which was cleared by 1 a.m.

There were no other injuries to either apartment occupants or firefighting personnel, and Captain Copeland Miller with Newport FD rescued a beagle from an apartment next to the one in which the fire originated, McCrillis reported.

McCrillis declined to identify the victim and said he did not know the person’s current status, describing the burn as “serious but not critical.”

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An hour after the Newport call, at 10:05 p.m., the Canaan Fire Department responded to a one-alarm chimney fire on Goose Pond Road that also drew engines and equipment from Enfield, Grafton and Lebanon, while departments in Rumney covered Canaan and Danbury covered Grafton, according to an alert posted on Canaan FD’s Facebook page.

The third fire occurred early Saturday afternoon in Unity where a blaze began in the garage and then spread to the attached house, reported Unity fire chief Tim Davis.

Davis said that Unity responded at about 12:30 p.m. to a report of a vehicle fire inside a garage at a residence on Gilman Pond Road where the owners thought they had put it out with fire extinguishers only to find the fire started up again.

By the time Unity engines arrived at the scene the garage was “fully involved” and they had to upgrade to a second alarm and then a third alarm that called out responders from a total of 11 other departments, plus Alstead to cover for Lempster.

Other departments that sent firefighters or equipment were Newport, Claremont, Goshen. Lempster, Acworth, Charlestown, Washington, Sunapee, Newbury and Stoddard and Marlow, Davis said.

“We reached out quite the ways,” he said.

Davis said all two to three occupants of the houses evacuated safely and there were no injuries to personnel at the scene. He reported the garage as a “total loss” and estimated half the house incurred significant fire, heat and water damage.

One challenge presented Unity’s firefighters was the “pretty intense heat” they encountered when entered the home as a result of the structure’s standing seam metal roof, which acted like a seal and prevented “self ventilation” to relief the heat and fire within.

“That’s when we upgraded to a third alarm, for the additional manpower,” Davis said on Monday.

Davis said what ignited the vehicle, a 1980s-era Ford Mustang which motor was running at the time, to catch fire is still under investigation.

Davis said the homeowners reported the vehicle had been “sitting in the garage for awhile” and they had started it up and were warming the engine to move the vehicle to another location.

“They used fire extinguishers and thought they had knocked it out but it flared back up again,” Davis said. “All it takes is for something to hit the fuel line for it to reignite.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.