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Fire eats mass of vehicles at Concord building

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 01. 2014 8:22PM
All that’s left is rubble and timbers after a fire at a storage building on Hall Street in Concord early Thursday morning. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

CONCORD — A three-alarm fire destroyed a large storage building housing vehicles, including antique cars, at Yankee Kenworth Trucks.

Fire Chief Daniel Andrus said a “very rough” damage estimate is more than $1 million. A gasoline tanker parked outside that went up in flames is a total loss, at $500,000, he said.

Seven vehicles parked inside the building, including passenger and industrial vehicles, were also a total loss, along with a sizable inventory of truck parts.

Andrus said the replacement cost for the 30- by 300-foot building, which was constructed in 1980, is $327,420, according to city records.

Fire crews could see flames shooting up to 30 feet into the air from a half-mile away as they responded to the 12:35 a.m. Thursday 911 call.

Five mechanics were working in another building at the Kenworth dealership, located at 24 Hall St., which operates nearly 24 hours a day. One of them looked out to see an orange glow in the sky and immediately called 911, Andrus said.

A second alarm was called at 12:44 a.m., and a third alarm was sounded minutes later as all off-duty Concord firefighters were called back to work.

A gasoline tanker truck located a few feet from the building also was engulfed by flames. Andrus said the cab was completely destroyed.

“There’s literally nothing left to the cab. You can see the brake shoes on the tires,” he said. Andrus said he had never seen a gas tanker that had burned up before.

“My eyes didn’t pop out of my head but they got very, very big,” he said of the damaged tanker.

It was empty, but Andrus explained there was enough residual fuel in it for it to ignite, and it did.

A building located across railroad tracks from the storage building was exposed to intense heat as were several vehicles located just outside the building. Fire crews set up elevated master streams and hose lines to surround and drown the fire, bringing it under control after 2 a.m. At one point, fire crews were pouring several thousand gallons of water per minute on the flames, Andrus said.

Andrus said it took well over two hours to extinguish the blaze completely. The fire was probably burning for some time before it was spotted and, once started, it had plenty of fuel to keep it going because of old, greasy parts inside the building and the fuel in the stored cars, Andrus said.

No injuries were reported.

Three investigators from the Concord Fire Department have been joined by staff from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Concord Police Department, Andrus said this afternoon. A team of three investigators is trying determine how and where the fire started.

About 50 firefighters were on the scene. Crews from Allenstown, Boscawen, Bow, Chichester, Epsom, Henniker, Hopkinton, Loudon, Pembroke, Hooksett and Manchester either responded to the scene or provided coverage for the city.

Staff from the N.H. Department of Environmental Services was also on scene to monitor the release of fuel and automotive products, Andrus said. An environmental cleanup contractor is on site and doing initial remediation work outside the fire building.

The truck dealership itself was unaffected by the blaze and is open as usual, a spokesman said.

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