MANCHESTER - Eight people, including two children, made it to safety early Thursday morning when a fire broke out in their Second Street apartment building.
District Chief Al Poulin said smoke detectors woke tenants to the danger at 3:17 a.m.
He said Sandra Davis, who lived in a second-floor apartment of the 610 Second St. building, looked out a window to see flames reflected in the window of an apartment building across the yard.
She saw her porch was on fire and then looked up to discover the third-floor porch completely in flames, Poulin said. Davis woke her family and roommates, and alerted tenants on the third floor to the fire, he said.
Paul Raymond, 47, who is Davis' roommate and manages the building for owner Rob Starace, said he ran up to the third floor because someone said the tenant was on the porch. He said he opened a hallway door, but heavy smoke forced him out of the building. As it turned out, the man and everyone else in the building had already made it to safety.
That included Raymond's 3-year-old son, as well as Davis' boyfriend and her 5-year-old daughter.
"The kids got out. That's my major concern," he said hours after the fire, standing outside the three-story building. The third-story porch was completely burned up in the blaze while his porch was heavily damaged.
All of the residents were safely out of the building, which is located across the street from Burger King, when Engine 2 arrived from the Main Street station. Firefighters, Poulin said, immediately ran a hose into the building, launching an interior attack and keeping the blaze from spreading to other sections of the building.
The four-man crew, increased recently from three, made all the difference in the initial attack, Poulin said. They were able to keep flames from extending into the other units, although the entire building was damaged by heavy smoke and water.
Poulin estimated damage at $125,000.
Despite firefighters' efforts, the fire went to two alarms, bringing about 40 of the 46 firefighters on duty to the scene. Crews cut into the roofs to vent the flames.
Poulin said the building had three separate roof lines because of additions over the years, allowing flames to get into the walls. As a result, he said, firefighters had to cut through walls and ceilings to make sure the fire was completely out.
The fire started on the third-story porch, sent flames into the roof and down to the second-story porch once it burned through the floor, he said.
The building has four apartments. The first floor was vacant; the second floor housed Raymond and his son, Davis, her boyfriend and her daughter; and the third floor had two apartments, one with two residents and the other, a single occupant.
Raymond said someone was supposed to move into the vacant apartment on Friday. That's not happening now. Raymond, who said he worked on recent renovations to the building, expects it "will be some time" before it can be occupied again.
Poulin said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but it is not considered suspicious.
Raymond said investigators believe the fire started in a "butt can" on the third-floor porch.
He lost most everything in the blaze and has no renter's insurance. The owner has another building, however, with an available apartment which Raymond says he will probably move into.
"I will have to get renter's insurance next time," he said.
The Red Cross, Raymond said, is helping the residents and gave them vouchers for a few nights at local hotels as well as pre-paid cards for food and clothing.
Mutual aid was called from Londonderry, Litchfield, Auburn, Concord, Bedford and Goffstown to provide station coverage.