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Officer Ben Foster was on patrol around 2 a.m. Sunday when he saw flames on the three-story apartment building at the corner of Granite and Barr streets. (Jeffrey Hastings)

Three-alarm fire damages city apartment building, 30 displaced

MANCHESTER - A city patrolman is credited with helping save the lives of 30 people when he ran into a burning building on Barr Street.

Officer Ben Foster was on patrol around 2 a.m. Sunday when he saw flames on the three-story apartment building at the corner of Granite and Barr streets.

"He saw the fire and then radioed it in," said Manchester Police Sgt. Kristen Taylor. "He then helped get people out."

Bishnu Gurung, 24, was sleeping when police officers started banging on her door and yelling for her to get out of the building.

"He was calling to wake up," she said.

Gurung and her husband, Karna Gurung, 28, grabbed their 2-year-old daughter, Katrina, and headed out into the cold as the fire burned through the roof. District Fire Chief Michael Gamache said there were 20 adults and 10 children in the building when the fire started, all of them sleeping as the fire did not activate the smoke detectors inside.

"That's scary, especially with 30 people in the building," Gamache said.

The fire likely burned for about an hour before it was seen by Foster, Gamache said. The fire is believed to have started in an electrical fixture in an exterior porch. It worked its way through the porch roof and then into the walls of the building and up to the attic without sending any smoke into the living area where the detectors were placed, he said.

"No smoke would have reached the living quarters," Gamache said.

Firefighters then went through the 100-year-old building, rescuing people trapped inside who were unable to get out earlier. There were six people the firefighters found in various parts of the building, Gamache said.

The fire could have easily been much worse, according to Gamache, as the apartment building is located in a densely populated area, and fire crews worked to contain the fire to keep it from spreading, he said.

"We evacuated the adjacent building," he said.

Many of the residents are staying with family and friends. The building sustained more than $250,000 in damage, Gamache said. The Red Cross has been to the scene and offered assistance to all of the residents, he said.

In the coming week, Manchester police will consider whether Foster's actions assisting victims from the building warrant commendation, said Sgt. Taylor.

The fire remains under investigation, but Gamache said it does not appear suspicious in origin, the fire appears to be the result of an electrical malfunction.


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