Hoping to save her pets, 85-year-old rushed into homeBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
January 07. 2018 10:02PM
NASHUA — An elderly woman was rescued from her burning home on Sunday morning after she tried to save her pets, some of which ultimately perished in the blaze.
“She went back in for her animals,” Noreen Durand said of her aunt, Norma “Connie” Berube.
Berube, 85, of 93 Lock St., had managed to escape the fire around 9:15 a.m., but reentered the house to find her two dogs and three cats.
“She does love her animals,” said Durand, adding at least one of the animals was saved.
According to Durand, firefighters located Berube, who was trapped inside on the first floor, and carried her out of the burning house through a window.
An ambulance took her to St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua; she was later flown to Massachusetts General Hospital with serious injuries.
“Oh dear God, she is like my mother,” Durand said of Berube as she watched fire crews clean up the severely damaged home.
Deputy Chief Karl Gerhard of Nashua Fire-Rescue said a city police officer discovered the blaze while in the area. According to Gerhard, police attempted to reach the elderly woman but were forced back by fire conditions. Another occupant of the home went back into the building to try to save the woman. Gerhard said firefighters assisted the would-be rescuer out of the building; he was not injured.
Hoarding conditions made it difficult for emergency workers to access the building, Gerhard said in a statement. Crews battled the two-alarm blaze for about 90 minutes Sunday, with about 40 firefighters assisted.
“The building is likely a total loss, resulting in all occupants being displaced,” he said in a news release.
Berube lives in the upper portion of the home. Her grandson, who was home at the time of the fire, lives in the lower level with some other occupants, according to Durand.
“He was OK,” she said of the grandson.
Ronnie Digesse, who lives across the street at 88.5 Lock St., said he was in his bedroom Sunday morning when he heard police sirens and looked out the window.
“The whole back of the house was engulfed in flames,” Digesse said. “Police were trying to get in there, but there was too much smoke.”
Digesse said he ran out of his house and tried to enter Berube’s burning home but police wouldn’t let him inside.
“It was very scary. My worst fear is fire,” he said. “I had tears in my eyes.”
According to Digesse, Berube was conscious and alert when fire crews carried her to the ambulance.
Durand said her aunt has lived at the Lock Street home since she was about 18.
“They built this house from the ground up. Now, it is gone,” she said.
In a statement, fire officials warned of the danger of re-entering a burning building.
“Do not re-enter a building on fire for rescue purposes — get out, and stay out,” the statement says. “Meet first responders upon their arrival and give them the information of how many people you suspect are trapped and where you believe them to be located.”
The statement also pointed to the importance of a home having two accessible exits.
“This means shoveling snow from exits during this season,” the statement says.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. It is under investigation by the city’s Fire Marshal’s office and the state Fire Marshal’s office.