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December 18. 2012 11:55PM

Manchester barn destroyed in two-alarm fire; Valley Street apartment burns

(Jeffrey Hastings)



MANCHESTER - A two-alarm blaze, reported late last night by motorists traveling along Interstate 293, destroyed a barn on South Mammoth Road.

District Fire Chief Robert Corbeil said the 50-by-120-foot barn was fully in flames — top to bottom and end to end — when firefighters arrived after being called at 11:14 p.m. State and Manchester police were called to handle rubberneckers on the highway, slowing down traffic and creating a possible hazard.

Corbeil said the 415 S. Mammoth Road property is up for sale, and the owner, Elaine Dolbec of Sanbornton, just recently moved the cows to Auburn so there were no animals inside the barn. However, about 100 bales of hay provided fuel for the flames, which ultimately destroyed the barn.

Fire crews, who extinguished the blaze in about 45 minutes, also were hampered in getting to it because the barn sits 350 feet back from South Mammoth Road and is reached only by a single dirt road, Corbeil explained. “We could only get one engine in there,” he said.

Firefighters used more than 3,000 feet of water hose, which they hooked to three different hydrants, in putting out the blaze.

About two weeks ago, firefighters were at the property for a fire in an older mobile home parked in front of the barn. The Dec. 5 blaze destroyed the mobile home, the cause of which remains undetermined.

Five years ago, a deadly blaze at the 401 S. Mammoth Road farmhouse claimed the life of farmer John Giovagnoli, 84. Giovagnoli and two tenants made it out of the burning home, but Giovagnoli lost his life when he ran back inside. That fire started in the basement where there was a wood stove.

As firefighters battled the barn blaze, another fire broke out just before 1 a.m. in a third-floor apartment at 981 Valley St. Manchester firefighters, as well as crews from Auburn and Londonderry, were dispatched to the scene because city fire crews were tied up at the barn fire.

When they arrived, flames were shooting out a third-floor window. Firefighters searched the entire building, but everyone already had made it out.

As they reached the third floor, firefighters encountered flames in the hallway; adjacent bedrooms were also in flames. Visibility was nil.

Still, firefighters extinguished the fire in 10 minutes, containing it to the third floor although the two apartments below suffered some water and smoke damage.

Damage is estimated at $75,000 and the apartment's two residents will be displaced for some time, fire officials said.

Corbeil said what caused the fire is undetermined, but investigators are leaning toward an accidental cause.

The cause of the barn fire and how it started is unknown, but Corbeil said investigators will look at all possibilities, including arson, considering the earlier fire in the mobile home.


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