MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — A fast-moving, pre-dawn fire in a three-story apartment building in New Hampshire left two adults and two children dead and about 30 people displaced, officials said Monday.
The Manchester Fire Department began getting 911 calls on the fire at sunrise Monday. Responders arrived to find heavy fire at the building, and removed the first two victims within one minute, firefighters said.
“The fire was progressing so quickly that we had to retreat to get supportive hose lines to advance further,” District Chief Mike Gamache said. Within five to six minutes, the other two victims were brought out, he said.
Two people died at the scene, and two were pronounced dead at the hospital. Manchester Fire Chief Daniel Goonan said all four people were living in the same apartment, but no further information was release. Autopsies are scheduled for Tuesday. One firefighter was treated for a leg injury and released from the hospital.
“It’s tragic for us, it’s tragic for the families, it’s tragic for the neighborhood and the city,” Goonan said.
Volunteers for a local nonprofit that provides meals and homework help for neighborhood children said the two children who died were brothers and a “big part” of the weekly gatherings. The neighborhood, on Manchester’s east side, is home to a diverse community with many low-income residents and single-parent households, volunteers said.
Volunteer Lisa Duda said it’s going to be “really hard” for the other children to cope with the deaths.
“They see so much loss and pain already,” she said.
A local church where the group meets served as a make-shift office for the Red Cross to help the other residents of the apartment building. Goonan said seven of the 12 apartments were occupied. The Red Cross was assisting some of the occupants. In all, 30 people were evacuated.
Rodolfo Paradas, 46, said firefighters woke him in his first floor apartment. After opening the door to the back stairway and seeing it consumed by fire, he left quickly through the front of the apartment. His apartment did not catch fire, but most of his belongings were destroyed by water damage, he said.
Alejandro Urrutia, a volunteer with the Red Cross, was working with a group of Honduran immigrants who lived in the building. Urrutia said the family has lived in Manchester for three years and “lost everything,” including important documents and items of sentimental value.
“(It’s) a relief that they are alive,” he said. “Now they are beginning to cope with the emotional piece of it.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Goonan said there was heavy fire coming from the rear porches when firefighters arrived.
Manchester’s east side is a mix of apartment buildings, restaurants, and small businesses. By midmorning, the entire top of the building appeared charred, with windows burned out on the third floor.