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Five-alarm fire rips through Portsmouth waterfront condo

Union Leader Correspondent

February 02. 2013 12:56AM
Fire ripped through the roof and third floor of a waterfront condominium building on Bow Street in Portsmouth on Friday night. The fire had gone to five alarms by 10 p.m., nearly three hours after it started in a chimney. (GRETYL MACALASTER/Union Leader Correspondent)

PORTSMOUTH - It was 10:30 p.m. before crews had a waterfront blaze on Bow Street under control on Friday night.

Crews were called to Harbour Place Condominiums at 6:30 p.m. for a report of a chimney fire that spread to the ceiling.

Fire ripped through the roof of the building and smoke billowed out for hours drawing crews from over a dozen Seacoast communities to battle the labor-intensive blaze.

No injuries of residents or fire personnel were reported and everyone in the building at the time the fire broke out was able to evacuate safely.

Portsmouth Fire Chief Chris LeClaire said most of the damage was contained to Unit 13 in the 18-unit building, with heat, smoke and water damage throughout the other three units on the third floor. The floors underneath sustained water damage.

Part of the roof over the middle unit also collapsed, LeClaire said.

None of the units were habitable on Friday night.

Fire crews were cleaning out by 11 p.m., but LeClaire said at least one crew would be on scene all night to check for hot spots and to make sure the fire stayed out.

The exact location where the fire started and the exact cause is under investigation.

The location of the building made access difficult and fighting the fire labor intensive, LeClaire said with the Piscataqua River on one side and a section of the building blocking direct access from Bow Street.

Five alarms were called, bringing in enough mutual aid to keep crews rotating in and out safely, LeClaire said, given the difficulty of fighting the fire and the cold, windy weather.

He said a quick response and aggressive attack kept the fire from spreading any further throughout the building or to the many surrounding buildings and businesses.

"They did tremendous work," LeClaire said.

All of the crews that responded are part of the Seacoast Chiefs Mutual Aid District, which includes 42 towns in three states. Crews from as far as Newburyport, Mass. and York, Maine responded to the scene.

"We all work well together. The mutual aid here is second to none," LeClaire said.

A person familiar with the building said all of the residents had accommodations for the night. LeClaire said the American Red Cross was not called to the scene because there had been no indication of need.

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