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The homeowner of a County Road home in Amherst searches through charred remains on Friday following a three-alarm fire at his residence. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON/Union Leader Correspondent)

Amherst home damaged in 3-alarm fire

AMHERST - Two cats are believed dead following a three-alarm fire that nearly destroyed a home on County Road Friday morning.

Fire crews were called to the residence, near the intersection of Upham Road, around 10 a.m., arriving to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the front windows of the home.

"Fortunately, it was not occupied at the time," said Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Conley of the Amherst Fire Department.

Because of the remote area, fire officials immediately called for assistance from neighboring communities, according to Conley, who said a fire hydrant was not directly nearby and required crews to set up a water supply. Conley was unsure how long it took firefighters to knock down the blaze, but said they encountered some challenges because several layers of walls existed inside of the old home, which is located off a dirt road.

"Every time we would open up one wall, there would be another wall to tackle," he said, explaining in some areas of the home there were three or four layers of drywall. The front portion of the home is a total loss, although Conley said the rear addition of the house may be salvageable, but it did sustain significant heat and smoke damage.

No one was injured battling the blaze, he said.

The homeowner, Philip Martin, was spotted outside of the residence Friday afternoon rummaging through the charred remains in a pile on his lawn.

"He is devastated, obviously," Conley said of the homeowner. "Unfortunately, there were two cats that did not make it out."

Fire investigators believe the blaze may have started in the basement or first floor area of the residence. The cause is still unknown, said Conley, adding it is too early to make any assumptions.

The New Hampshire State Fire Marshal's Office was called in to review the scene as well, but Conley said the incident does not appear to be suspicious at this time. The house is uninhabitable, and the American Red Cross was on the scene to assist in whatever way necessary.

Fire crews remained on the scene after 4 p.m. on Friday. A cleaning crew was already present to begin boarding up the shattered windows. In addition to Amherst firefighters, crews from Bedford, Milford, Merrimack, Hollis and Mont Vernon assisted. The incident remains under investigation.


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