Portsmouth fire estimated to cause more than $1 million in damage to condos

Posted Feb. 03, 2013, at 7:17 a.m.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Harbour Place Condominium residents will spend another night outside of their homes after a five-alarm fire displaced them Friday night, causing more than $1 million worth of damages to the waterfront property.

“No one is allowed in tonight,” Fire Captain Todd Germain said. “As of this morning, insurance companies, clean up companies, moving companies and building representatives were there assessing the damage.”

The 18 units in the condominium building at 135 Bow Street cost well over a half a million dollars each, and Germain said at least half of them saw damages.

“Three units are totally destroyed and another six are heavily damaged with smoke and water,” he said.

Germain said the units with smoke and water damage can be repaired.

“The $1 million damage number, I’d say, is on the low-end,” he said.

Unit 13 saw the worst of the fire, with the flames actually coming through that residence.

“The fire started in a chimney in a unit below unit thirteen’s fireplace,” Germain said. “The chimney fire started and eventually got away from the chimney at some point and got into unit thirteen’s ceiling and up through the roof of the building.”

The owners of unit 13 were not in the building at the time of the fire.

All residents were evacuated safely on Friday night.

After crews arrived on scene, firefighters from departments all across the region were continuously called in, until eventually the fire went to five-alarms shortly before 10 p.m.

Portsmouth, Greenland, Dover, Newington, New Castle, Exeter, Rye, Hampton, Pease, Durham, Stratham, Rochester, Hampton Falls and Kittery, Eliot and York, Maine, were all on scene.

The wind and the freezing temperatures hindered the firefighter’s battle the blaze until the early morning hours on Saturday.

“Everything is just harder to do with the ice, the conditions, the weather,” Germain said.

No crew members were injured, which Germain said he was happy to hear.

“We’re extremely proud that a fire like last night’s didn’t cause any injuries,” he said of the amount of crew on scene.

One elderly woman did slip on Bow Street on ice that may have been from the water used by the firefighters.

Germain said the fire was difficult, not because of its size, but because of its location.

“It was a sizable fire, but it was not very big, it was just difficult to access because of the river on one side and it being several hundred feet from the street,” he said.

Portsmouth used their water truck to fight the flames and Germain said they had to stretch far more hoses than they normally do for fires because of the location of the condominiums.

“Accessing the roof was hard,” he said.

Crews were getting to the roof from skylights on the building next door.

“We also had to extend our hoses several hundred feet from the trucks into the building and pulled our hand lines from there because of the stand pipe,” he said.

From 6:30 p.m. through 11 p.m., billowing smoke and high orange flames could be seen at different times coming from the roof.

There was also a partial roof collapse as the roof began to burn away and the HVAC units on the top of the building were too heavy for the remainder of the roof to bear.

“The entire roof membrane sunk in and fell into a unit,” Germain said, adding that crews had anticipated that it would happen and stayed clear of the area.

The fire department stayed on scene until 11 a.m. Saturday morning, watching for hot spots.

None were reported as of late Saturday afternoon.

“We cleared and most crews went home around 1:30 a.m. or 2 a.m., but we kept a crew on scene for fire watch.”

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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