CLAREMONT — Two city firefighters remain hospitalized but in good condition Monday after being injured in a house fire Sunday, Fire Chief Richard Bergeron said Monday.
Claremont Fire Department Lt. Andy Stevens was flown to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and firefighter Scott Kenniston was flown to Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington, Vt.
Both firefighters suffered burns while escaping a quickly moving house fire they were battling Sunday night.
A third firefighter, Nick Koloski, injured his thumb or wrist while helping the firefighters escape. He was treated at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, Bergeron said.
Firefighters were called to 8 Cherry Hill Road just after 6 p.m. for a report of a chicken coop fire, with exposure to the home.
When firefighters arrived, the rear side of the house was fully in flames, Bergeron said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but the cause has been "tentatively placed on a heat lamp that was operating in the chicken coop to help keep it warm for the birds," Bergeron said.
The family, three adults and three children, were out of the house when firefighters arrived, though initially two adults were reported trapped inside.
The first firefighters arrived at 6:12 p.m., six minutes after the initial 911 call, to find flames had spread from the coop to the rear of the house.
Exterior materials on the house helped spread the fire up the rear side of the house including an exterior vinyl siding and the composite porch.
Homeowners sometime favor these materials because they are low or no maintenance, Bergeron said, "But when you inject fire into these buildings, all bets are off; it becomes a whole new environment for the firefighters."
From the front, the house appears to have two stories, but from the rear, because of a slope the basement level opens out into the backyard, Bergeron said.
Firefighters went through the front and entered the first floor to access the porch on the first floor.
"They went through a small entryway and into the dining room, working on extinguishing the deck fire," Bergeron said. "I think unbeknownst to them the fire had communicated to the floor beneath them as well as the floor above them," Bergeron said.
They didn't realize the fire was quickly spreading through the basement and top floor, he said.
There was so much fire in the building that conditions deteriorated before they could react, Bergeron said.
"Fire is unpredictable and there's no guarantee that it will travel in the direction and speed that you anticipate it will. Every now and again it will catch you off guard, and it's an unforgiving thing," Bergeron said.
Once they realized this it was too late, and they had to "self-rescue," he said, running down the basement stairs and out the back door.
Their fire protective suits could only protect them so much against the fire, and they suffered burns of varying degrees, Bergeron said. The firefighters were sent to hospitals with burns centers that could treat them. They are expected to be released from care anywhere from a few days to up to a week, he said.
The home was destroyed by the fire, Bergeron said, but the multigenerational family owns another home in Claremont where they plan to live.