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May 23. 2012 9:19AM

20 displaced after 4-alarm blaze in Bethlehem


About a dozen fire departments responded to an apartment house fire on Main Street in Bethlehem Wednesday morning. Twelve families were left homeless by the fire that was contained by 9:15 a.m., according to Bethlehem Fire chief Jack Anderson, who said no one was injured, but pets are believed to have been lost. (BOB HOOKWAY/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

Firefighters create ventilation opeings in the roof of an apartment building on Main Street in Bethlehem where a fire alarm was sounded at about 7:15 a.m. Wednesday. (BOB HOOKWAY)

BETHLEHEM - A four-alarm fire that broke out about 7:15 a.m. Wednesday on Main Street drove 12 families from their homes and kept firefighters from about a dozen North Country fire departments busy throughout the morning, either fighting the fire or covering other fire stations.

No one was injured, but some pets were believed lost, according to Bethlehem Fire Chief Jack Anderson, who said the fire was contained about 9:15 a.m.

"I'm happy it's still standing," said Anderson, who said the hot, humid conditions and the close quarters in the building's attic made it tough going for firefighters.
He said he rotated crews frequently throughout the morning to guard against heat exhaustion.

The bank-owned apartment house, which, according to Anderson, is scheduled for foreclosure auction in a week, had tenants who lived there for varying lengths of times, including Tracy Wessels, who had been there for 16 years.

"I just went right out quickly when I heard the alarm," she said. Wessels said her 15-year-old son, Matthew, who has lived there all his life, had already left for school when the alarm sounded.

The American Red Cross, in addition to providing water and medical attention for firefighters, if necessary, was working Wednesday to find temporary shelter for the families.

Wessels said she and many of her neighbors were told they'd be staying at a Littleton hotel for the immediate future. Anderson said the fire is believed to have started in a top-floor apartment in the three-story building, but the cause was not immediately known.


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