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Manchester fire official: Merrimack Street fire started by smoking in bed; tenement destroyed

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 16. 2018 11:33AM
Manchester firefighters battle a blaze at 374 Merrimack St. Monday morning. Fire officials said the fire was started by smoking in bed. (JEFFREY HASTINGS)

A Manchester firefighter works to put out a blaze at 374 Merrimack St. Monday morning. (MARK HAYWARD/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER – A day-break fire that destroyed a 6-unit tenement in the center city on Monday appears to have been started by people smoking in bed, a city fire official said.

Nearly two hours after the start of the fire at 374 Merrimack St., firefighters were still dousing flames and poking at the roof as smoke escaped, casting a wet, campfire-like smell on the Enright Park neighborhood of the city. Police closed streets in all directions, allowing firefighters from Manchester and Bedford to bring in ladder trucks and engines.

“I woke up to screaming,” said a man who would only give his first name, Gary, and said he lived in the building next door. Flames had engulfed the third-floor porch and stretched into the apartments, he said.

Smoke detectors were sounding, and heavy black smoke, held in by the damp weather, settled in the neighborhood initially, he said.

District Fire Chief Hank Martineau said people assured arriving firefighters that all residents of the building had gotten out, but at one point concern arose because a family that lives on the third floor could not be found.

Firefighters entered the building but flames halted them on the second floor, Martineau said.

“They couldn’t get to the third floor if they wanted to,” he said. The family was later found at a friend’s apartment.

Martineau said preliminary indications are that the fire started on the second floor, where people had been smoking in bed.

The third floor sustained the most significant damage, with embers showing in some locations and a collapsed porch roof. The second floor was charred, but firefighters were seen walking in a stairway there once most of the flames were extinguished.

Martineau thinks the building is a total loss.

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