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Smoke from overheated pipe organ forces evacuation of Salem funeral

By April Guilmet
Union Leader Correspondent

January 25. 2013 1:16PM

SALEM - Smoky conditions inside Saint Joseph Church forced firefighters to evacuate dozens of people attending a funeral mass late Friday morning.

Members of the Salem Fire Department responded to reports of heavy smoke inside the building shortly after 11 a.m.
Though initially reported as a working fire, no fire was present in the building, said Fire Capt. Timothy Kenney, though it was initially called in as such in order to summon additional help at the scene.

“There were a lot of people inside the church and there was an obvious smoke condition," Kenney said. The building was evacuated within about 10 minutes and the mourners in the funeral procession went about their way unharmed.

With firefighters from Windham and Methuen, Mass., assisting at the scene and staff from the Pelham and Derry fire departments providing station coverage, the smoke was determined to have come from the basement.

The old electrical motor that aerates the sanctuary pipe organ had apparently overheated, creating clouds of black smoke.

“When that happened, it also tripped up the electrical system, so the power went out too," Kenney said. '

The church’s electrician was working to restore power to the building by early afternoon.

Public Safety Salem

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