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High winds cause power outages, fan fires

Union Leader Correspondents

April 24. 2014 9:15PM
A firefighter soaks an area while fighting a brush fire that spread to a house at 2 Faith Lane in Manchester on Thursday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

A dose of winter-like weather blew into the Granite State on Thursday, causing power outages, fanning brush fires, and dropping 5 inches of snow on Mount Washington.

The National Weather Service issued a "special weather statement" for parts of the state, warning that an ocean low centered south of Nova Scotia would produce strong northwest winds of 20 to 30 mph, along with gusts up to 45 mph during the day. Wind gusted to 103 mph on Mount Washington.

A brush fire started by a fallen power line on Hazelton Avenue in Manchester was spread by high winds and caught a nearby house on fire, according to Manchester Police spokesman Lt. Maureen Tessier.

The blaze began after a tree fell onto a utility pole at Hazelton Avenue and Faith Lane about 1:30 p.m. The fire spread to the rear of the house at 2 Faith Lane, eventually engulfing the single-family home and igniting a small grilling propane tank at the rear of the home.

Officers evacuated some of the surrounding homes as Manchester firefighters got the brush fire and house fire under control.

The high winds caused problems throughout the state, especially with power lines.

"Our crews are very busy," Public Service of New Hampshire's Martin Murray said. "There are numerous scattered power outages throughout the state; we're experiencing fairly strong wind gusts."

The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative also had customers without power Thursday afternoon, mostly in the Meredith area.

"The wind has been very strong, particularly in Meredith, it's coming in off the lake," said the co-op's Clint Hutchins.

A fire in Meredith on Swain Road brought four Lakes Region fire departments to the scene.

"It was difficult because the winds were blowing hard," said Laconia Fire Dept. Lt. Lisa Baldelli, whose crews helped to stop the brush fire from spreading.

Brush fires were also reported in Durham, Plainfield, Andover and Peterborough.

Winds also fueled a fire that destroyed a shed and damaged a home at 33 Lover's Lane in Auburn just after 6 p.m., Fire Chief Bruce Phillips said.

"I think the wind may have played a part in it," he said.

He said the fire appears to have spread to the shed from an exterior wood-fired boiler. Phillips said the fire was under control in about 20 minutes.

Phillips said damage was estimated at $30,000; there were no injuries.

Stray cigarette, heavy winds lead to Londonderry shopping plaza fire

Heavy winds and a discarded cigarette led to a series of small fires in the parking lot of Londonderry’s Market Basket store Thursday afternoon.

Londonderry Fire officials had already responded to over a dozen weather-related calls throughout the day when a local shopper called to report a bark mulch fire at the 34 Nashua Road plaza, Fire Lt. Donald Waldron said.

Fire crews arrived shortly before 3 p.m. and found that three of the parking lot’s landscaped islands had caught fire.

Waldron said the three firefighters staffing the responding engine were able to deploy two hose lines and use a portable extinguisher to begin putting out the fires.

“However, due to the heavy wind gusts blowing embers across the parking lot, a total of nine parking lot islands quickly caught fire,” Waldron said, noting that an additional engine company and incident commander was then summoned to the scene.

The fires were declared under control at 3:17 p.m., with crews remaining on the scene until almost 4 p.m.

Fire Chief Darren O’Brien urged citizens to be cautious in their disposal of smoking materials, noting that cigarettes shouldn’t be discarded anywhere “other than approved ashtrays and receptacles.”

Earlier on Thursday, Londonderry fire crews had responded to a fallen tree incident at Devonshire Lane. Officials said the tree was uprooted by wind shortly after 11 a.m. and damaged the roof of a single-family home, though no one was injured.

Cold temperatures

Granite Staters who are sick of the winter-like weather have good reason to grumble. According to the National Weather Service, March was the fourth-coldest month on record for the state. So far, April's temperatures are about average, said the weather service's Chris Kimball.

Friday will bring temperatures in the 60s.

"But it will be cold again on Saturday," Kimball said, adding that temperatures will likely barely rise above 50 degrees in the coming week.

"It's normal to have periods of cold weather this month; the warm air to the south and the colder air from the northwest are battling," Kimball said.

Union Leader Staff Writer Pat Grossmith contributed to this report.

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