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November 17. 2012 8:20PM

Investigation continues into fatal Tuftonboro fire

TUFTONBORO - Investigators from the New Hampshire Fire Marshal's Office plan to return early this week to the scene of a devastating fire on Friday that claimed the life of an 80-year-old woman.

On Saturday, John Raymond, assistant director of the New Hampshire Fire Marshal's Office, reported that the identify of the victim was not yet confirmed, pending a comparison of dental records, but residents in this tightly knit Mirror Lake community believe the victim is Deborah "Debbie" Cary, wife of Richard Cary, 78, an architect who serves on the town's Fire Rescue Building Committee.

"Everyone is devastated, just really devastated," said Selectman Carolyn Sundquist. Sundquist served on the Fire Rescue Building Committee with Cary, and also knew the couple as members of an informal play-reading group. She described Mrs. Cary as an excellent weaver and a juried member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.

"She made beautiful scarves and shawls, and had looms in her home," said Sundquist.

On her biography page on the League's website, nhcrafts.org, Mrs. Cary wrote that she began weaving many years ago as a child. She stated that she later married, had children and worked as a school psychologist until retiring to New Hampshire where her family had summered since 1907.

"We love living here in this beautiful state, even on the cold wintery days," she wrote.

Mrs. Cary was also a member of a musical group that performed music from the 18th and 19th century; she also helped count ballots on Election Day, Sundquist added. She said the Carys are members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Eastern Slopes Church in Tamworth.

No information regarding memorial services are available. Sundquist said Mr. Cary is staying locally with family members. The Cary home and everything in it was destroyed.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Mr. Cary first reported the fire at the couple's lakefront home at 34 Barber Pole Road by calling 911. When crews arrived only 13 minutes later, the house was engulfed in flames that were being fed by a ruptured propane line, making entry into the home impossible. Mr. Cary escaped and was waiting for Fire Chief Adam Thompson outside. He told officials he believed the fire started outside the house. On Saturday, Raymond confirmed that investigators are looking at the front of the house on the driveway side as a possible origination point.

The woman's body was found in debris on the first floor, Raymond said. A Tuftonboro firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation and chest pains at Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro and released the same day.

Raymond said there is "nothing at all" suspicious about the fire.

"We're going to be looking at the gas lines, electrical system, the vent for the boiler and where there was storage of household stuff like spray cans," he said.

The Cary home had working smoke detectors, he said.

Thursday and Friday was a busy time for firefighters across the state. Fire destroyed a building in Franklin, when a fire initially extinguished on Thursday morning reignited later in the afternoon. No one was injured but the home was destroyed.

"It was a crazy day. The biggest thing I can say is make sure you have working smoke detectors," said Raymond.

While the Tuftonboro fire ended tragically with one fatality despite working smoke detectors, a family of three and their two dogs escaped injury in Peterborough when their home caught fire. The residents credited smoke detectors with alerting them to the danger.

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