New Hampshire Apartment Fire Displaces 100


Dozens of people are trying to pick up their lives after fire tore through a large apartment building in Manchester on Tuesday night.

About 100 people were left homeless after the four-alarm fire at 88 Pearl St. Everyone made it out of the building after fire broke out at about 7:45 p.m.

"Firefighters concentrated on knocking down the fire and went through the building, evacuating many, many people," Chief James Burkush said.

Investigators were able to pinpoint the cause of the fire to a coffeepot left on a stove in one of the 38 apartments in the building.

Two residents were taken to a hospital, with one suffering from smoke inhalation and the other experiencing chest pains.

Burkush said a couple of factors made it a very difficult fire to fight.

"The age of the building, the construction of the building and also the wind contributed to rapid fire spreading throughout the fire structure,' he said.

Wednesday morning some of the residents returned to the scene, combing through debris to salvage what they could. Louis Martinez, who lived on the first floor, was hoping he would be let back in. As he stood in the street shivering, he said he considered himself more fortunate than others.

"My brother-in-law lived on the third floor," Martinez said. "There is nothing up there. Basically, everybody who lived on the third floor -- it is all gone."

Clint McMahon was able to save a painting he got from his grandmother and some personal papers, but not much else.

"I'm shocked," he said. "I thought it was a joke. I started getting calls where I was working in Burlington, Mass. 'Hey, your apartment on fire.' I'm, like, 'Yeah, April Fool's.'"

McMahon said it wasn't long before he found out the calls weren't a joke and almost everything he had was gone.

"My apartment didn't look too bad," he said. "It's just totally destroyed by the water and the heat. Everything's melted on the wall -- all the pictures and stuff like that."

Some were lucky. Carrie Mandeville said she feels like she dodged a bullet. Her apartment is right next to the last one that suffered serious damage. Her pets are fine, and she lost nothing.

"It smells a little smoky," Mandeville said. "The Fire Department had to break down our door because the neighbor thought my boyfriend or I were here. So they have to replace the door. I'll probably be back tomorrow."

But others, such as Sharron Kelley, spent the morning salvaging what she could.

"It's really hard," she said. It's gone through the whole house. The front room. My kid's room."

Red Cross Opens Shelter; Donations Sought More than a dozen of the fire victims stayed overnight at a Red Cross shelter at St. Joseph Regional Junior High School on Pine Street, while others stayed with friends and family. They were meeting with various organizations Wednesday to figure out what to do next.

"It was kind of hard to sleep last night, thinking about the flames and watching your whole life go up with it," victim Gary Baker said.

Michelle Caron said she and her family had lived in the building for a few months. She barely had time to grab her shoes before running out and eventually took them off to give to her daughter, who didn't have a chance to grab hers.

"I came outside and her feet were cold," Caron said. "I'm, like, 'You take my shoes. It's fine' because, of course, she comes first."

Donations were starting to pour into the shelter Wednesday morning.

"Well, we saw a baby on the news this morning, so we donated by daughter's toys," one resident said.

Red Cross workers said people have been generous, and one woman put coats directly on the backs of victims.

"Today, we want to put clothes on their back and food in their stomach," said Mike Fawcet of Red Cross Emergency Services. "We're going to use financial donations that have been donated by the community, and we're going to put that right onto a credit card so they can purchase what they need."

Red Cross officials said 25 other organizations in the community such as the Salvation Army and the Food Bank are helping the fire victims. Property management companies with open units are also helping them find new apartments.

"Our biggest challenge at this time is funding," said Lisa Michaud of the Red Cross. "We're a nonprofit, and we are always asking for the generosity of the community. We are always seeking donations."

Red Cross officials have asked anyone that would like to donate to visit their Web site

You can also send donations to:

Greater Manchester Red Cross 1800 Elm St. Manchester, NH 03104