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Truck pulls down power line, starts paint store blaze

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 24. 2014 12:51PM
Firefighters work at the building fire at Queen City Paint & Flooring on Thursday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — A low-hanging wire inadvertently triggered a fire at a Lake Avenue paint store Thursday morning when a tractor-trailer truck pulled it down, ripping out the main wiring attached to the building and sparking the blaze.

"We determined that the truck was energized," said Manchester Fire Chief James Burkush. The driver would have been electrocuted had he stepped out of the truck, he said.

"That would have made my day," said Rich Fournier, 44, of Bow, the driver of the Land Air Express tractor-trailer that got caught on the power line as he was making a delivery to Queen City Paint and Decorating/Dean's Carpet One Floor & Home, 777 Lake Ave.

Fournier, a truck driver for 28 years, said he had no intention of getting out of the truck, especially when he saw the fallen wires and flames coming from the roof of the building.

Fournier said he is a contract employee who was filling in and making his first delivery — two pallets of paint — to the Lake Avenue store. His rig caught a low-hanging wire which, in turn, pulled on the conduit containing the building's electrical service entry wiring, sparking the fire, according to Burkush.

Fournier said, by law, high power lines are supposed to be 14 feet, high enough for his 13-foot-6-inch truck to clear.

He stayed in the truck for about 30 minutes, until PSNH crews arrived and turned off the power to the paint store.

Russell Sanford of Rochester, a floor salesman, was inside the store when the fire broke out about 11 a.m.

"I heard a noise and then the lights flashed and the hum started," he said.

Employees and some customers quickly left the store. The damaged conduit, which was bent over but still attached to the building, caused wires to spark and a fire to start between the ceiling and the roof, Sanford said.

Barry LaPorte of Goffstown, who has worked at the store for 20 years, said the fire started next to the bathrooms.

Burkush said firefighters managed to extinguished the fire in about 20 to 25 minutes, which he said was "pretty good" considering there were high winds from the northwest and that flames had spread to both the attic and the basement.

A report issued this afternoon by District Chief Robert Corbeil indicated the fire caused $50,000 to $60,000 worth of damage, the electrical service has been shut down and the store is currently closed.

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