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Firefighters battle a three-alarm blaze at 18 Depot Road in Candia Tuesday morning. (JASON SCHREIBER/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

Neighbor, 82, uses tractor to clear way for firefighters to battle Candia blaze


CANDIA – When he saw his neighbor's house go up in flames Tuesday and firefighters tromping through deep snow, Ray Rodier wasted no time climbing onto his orange Kubota tractor.

Big snow banks around the front of the house made it tough for firefighters to get inside through the front door of Linda Fletcher's home at 18 Depot Road.

The 82-year-old Rodier knew he had to help. In November 2013, he had lost his own house in a fire.

With a bucket on the front of his tractor, Rodier pushed through the snow bank and cleared a path for firefighters battling the blaze, which broke out about 11 a.m.

“I shouldn't have been doing it because I've got a bum back, but I figured it would be easier for them to get in and out,” said Rodier, who was town's animal control officer for 30 years and just moved into his new house last fall after it was rebuilt following his fire.

Fletcher was pleased when she saw Rodier show up with the tractor.

“He loves that thing,” she said.

While her house sustained heavy fire damage, Fletcher said she was thankful for the help from firefighters, police and neighbors like Rodier.

“In this neighborhood everybody is just wonderful. It's a good neighborhood,” she said.

Fletcher is a veteran art teacher at Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua and was off from school for a snow day Tuesday when she escaped the three-alarm fire with her two dogs.

She said she was sitting at her computer on the first floor when she noticed smoke coming from the walls.

Fletcher quickly opened the door to let her two dogs, Clifford and Tipsey, outside and looked for the source of the smoke.

She walked over to the quilt she hangs from the archway leading to the upstairs to keep the heat downstairs.

“When I pulled that back the smoke was billowing down the stairs. Then I got out of there,” she said as she stood across the street in Rodier's driveway and watched firefighters attack the flames, which appeared to have started upstairs.

The cause of the fire was not known by early afternoon.

Fletcher has lived at the home for 12 years. While she escaped with her two dogs, she said she wasn't sure if her two cats, Echo and Willow, made it out.

Fletcher hopped into her car with the dogs and attempted to pull it out of the driveway, but it became stuck. Candia police Sgt. Scott Gallagher said he and Officer Dan Gray arrived and helped push the car out of the snow.

Nearly 30 firefighters from Candia and several neighboring towns responded to the scene.

An elderly couple living next door was evacuated from their home as a precaution because of a propane tank on the property and its close proximity to Fletcher's residence.

Candia Fire Chief Dean Young said the deep snow made it harder for firefighters to fight the blaze.

The design of the house also posed challenges.

“This is a typical old house with an L in the back and additions and it was really hard to get it out,” he said.

Fletcher plans to stay with her daughter in Exeter until she figures out what to do next.

jschreiber@newstote.com