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House, pets saved after UPS driver spots Kingston fire

Union Leader Correspondent

August 06. 2013 7:11PM
UPS driver Tim Merrill of Manchester gets a hug from Kingston homeowner Charlene Caswell after Merrill noticed a fire at her residence on Monday while making deliveries and called 911. (JASON SCHREIBER PHOTO)

fter 21 years as a UPS driver, Tim Merrill has learned to keep his eyes peeled when he's on the road.

On Monday afternoon, the 40-year-old Manchester man was making deliveries when he spotted smoke pouring from the eaves of Michael and Charlene Caswell's ranch-style home at 26 Ball Road.

Merrill quickly backed into the driveway and ran up to the house. He pounded on the front door and rang the doorbell several times. No one came to the door, but he heard smoke detectors going off and the family's three dogs inside barking.

Merrill didn't believe anybody was home and dialed 911.

"I was just in the right place at the right time," he said Tuesday.

Moments after Merrill's call, Police Chief Donald Briggs Jr. arrived with officers Christopher Paris, Jess Nisbet and Selectman Mark Heitz.

They rushed into the house, removed the three dogs and a cat, searched each room and shut off the power. Fire Chief Bill Seaman said the fire was called in around 2:30 p.m. He said the blaze appears to have started in the ceiling over two bathrooms located next to one another. A fan in the ceiling likely sparked the fire, which extended into the attic. The bathrooms were damaged, he said, but the rest of the house was spared.

Seaman said the outcome would have been different had the UPS driver not discovered the fire when he did.

"The game would have changed at that point," Seaman said.

Merrill said he's been driving the Kingston route for four years and knows the area well. Merrill was taking it easy by the Caswell residence because the road is narrow, and he knows they and a neighbor have horses.

That slower drive gave him time to spot the smoke.

Charlene Caswell had a chance to thank Merrill with a hug when he arrived to make a delivery at a neighbor's house Tuesday afternoon.

"He's amazing in this town," she said of Merrill. "If you're going to have a fire, it doesn't get any better than this."

Caswell praised Merrill for his quick thinking, and thanked police and fire personnel for their rapid response.

"They were amazing. They were all here so fast," she said.

Merrill didn't want to take any credit for his 911 call.

"I did what I hope somebody would do for me," he said.

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