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January 24. 2014 2:58AM

31-year-old man dies in early-morning Manchester blaze


Firefighters battle a three-alarm fire on Joliette Street in Manchester early Friday morning. (J.D. Enright/Union Leader)


One man died early Friday morning when fire swept through his third floor apartment at 169 Joliette St. (Pat Grossmith/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — A man died Friday morning when he became trapped in a third-floor apartment as flames swept through his West Side apartment.

Charles Sullivan, 31, was found dead in the 169 Joliette St. apartment, which was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at the five-unit apartment building.

District Fire Chief Michael Gamache said the fire was reported at 12:20 a.m. Friday and crews from the Amory Street station were on the scene in about three minutes. By then, the third-floor apartment was completely in flames and the fire had spread to the attic.

Gamache said smoke alarms were sounding and firefighters entered the building, some knocking on doors to get residents out and others heading to the third floor to try to put out the blaze.

State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan credited the smoke alarms with keeping the fire from being even deadlier.

"The presence of working smoke detectors saved several lives today," Degnan said. "The importance of checking your detectors regularly cannot be overstated."

The American Red Cross help eight people who made it safely out of the burning building, Gamache said. He said all of the building's apartments were occupied.

Firefighters had set up a heated tent in the middle of Joliette Street where the residents could gather to keep warm.

The fire was so intense, however, firefighters could not get inside the burning third-floor apartment until they beat back the flames about 20 minutes later. A downstairs neighbor told them a resident was trapped inside and, initially, firefighters also were told the man's girlfriend was inside as well.

Gamache said firefighters found the man's body once they were able to get inside the apartment. The man's girlfriend was not inside the apartment at the time of the fire, he said.

All off-duty Manchester fire personnel were called to the scene, bringing about 100 firefighters to battle the blaze.

An apartment building next door at 161 Joliette St. also was evacuated. Firefighters kept the fire from spreading to it, though heat damaged some siding.

The three-alarm blaze was brought under control shortly after 2 a.m. Friday.

At 6 p.m. Friday, workers from a property management company were at the scene, bolting locks on the doors to secure the building.

Much of the intersection of Joliette and Bremer streets was still layered with ice and the Public Works Department erected signs banning people from parking on the street near the burned building.

In battling the blaze, firefighters had to contend with a frozen fire hydrant and other equipment freezing up. Gamache said one firefighter, Lt. Ed Ameen, slipped on ice and twisted his knee, requiring a trip to the hospital and some stitches.

The five-unit apartment building at the corner of Bremer Street is owned by Donald A. Lessard, according to an online assessors' database. Gamache said the building is destroyed and estimated damage at $200,000.

The State Fire Marshal's Office along with the city's Fire Prevention Bureau arson investigator Mitch Cady and police Detective Peter Kucharski are investigating the cause of the fire. Investigators are focusing on the third floor apartment where the fire originated.

Police said the initial investigation does not indicate any foul play.

pgrossmith@unionleader.com


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