FRANKLIN, N.H. --
A suspected meth lab was found in an apartment building near Franklin High School where firefighters battled a three-alarm fire Tuesday, police said.
Officials said that Tilton police received a tip from an informant a few days ago that a meth lab was operating inside the Central Street building. Franklin and Tilton police and Drug Enforcement Agency officials raided the building Tuesday morning.
"You could basically walk in there and buy meth," Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier said.
Police said that when they knocked on the door a man wearing gloves answered and admitted to manufacturing meth.
Residents Jeremy Clough and Rebecca Field were arrested and charged with manufacturing meth and endangering the welfare of a child. Police said Clough and Field lived together, and there were three children in the home. Clough and Field were scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.
A relative of Clough told WMUR News 9 on Tuesday night that Clough is a good person who made a very bad mistake.
Fire Burns Chemicals Inside Building
Police said they saw smoke coming from a back bedroom, and they evacuated the building. The burning chemicals contaminated the building, and nothing in the apartments can be salvaged.
Officials said they don't know whether the fire was intentionally started or accidental.
"I would rather have us come in and shut it down, rather than have the lab catch fire in the middle of the night and lives are lost," Cormier said. "Not only that, it was within 500 feet of the high school."
Nearby School Locked Down
The nearby Franklin High School
was placed under lockdown at the request of police. A police officer was taken to a hospital after inhaling something in the building, and everyone who was inside had to be decontaminated, police said.
The school said a handful of students with asthma were transported to a hospital as a precaution after complaining of respiratory symptoms.
"It didn't bother a lot of people, but there are enough kids with asthma that we were concerned," said Superintendent Jo Ellen Divoll. "We did bring in Andover (Rescue), and they were great."
Raid, Fire Surprise Neighbors
Three displaced families are being put up at a local hotel by the Red Cross.
"So, I finally got up, I opened my door and there were DEA agents with machine guns, and a couple cops came up," said resident Scott Regan. "They were all in my driveway, and the cops grabbed me and took me out of the house with no shoes, clothes -- nothing. And I sat there and watched my house burn."
Regan was asleep when the fire started on the floor above. He said he awoke to find DEA agents who hustled him out of the building as he watched the flames erupt.
"I'm very upset, obviously, to be woken up like that and have an incident like this. I called my wife right away and said, 'Hey, I'm watching the house burn,'" he said.
Neighbors Plan Efforts To Help Displaced Residents
Neighbors are already planning a food drive and fundraiser. Tonyia Keniston, who lost her father and sister in a fire in Franklin six years ago, said she and her family want to help.
"I feel so bad for them because they don't deserve this. They really don't," said Tonyia Keniston, of Franklin. "It's a displacement and the kids still have to go to school. So, we hope people will come together like they did for my family," said Richard Nesbitt-Taylor, Keniston's grandfather.
The incident has angered some residents. James Smith said he is worried about the chemical smoke that drifted into his kids' bedroom, but he's more upset for those who have lost so much.
"They have to start all over -- baby pictures, family pictures, that can't be replaced," Smith said.
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