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Fire follows strike on former property of famed author Grace Metalious, lightning rods save home next door

Union Leader Correspondent

August 09. 2018 11:07PM
Emergency lights of a fire engine glow through heavy smoke as firefighters battle a fire Wednesday on Stockwell Hill Road in Gilmanton believed caused by a lightening strike. Fire engulfed a mobile home and heavily damaged a three-room addition. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

GILMANTON — A three-alarm fire destroyed a mobile home and heavily damaged an attached three-room addition early Wednesday night on Stockwell Hill Road on land that once belonged to famed author Grace Metalious.

Property owner Jeanne Gallant said she was in her home across the street when lightning struck about 5:45 p.m.

“A ball of flame came right into the corner of the room and then there was a big boom. I was scared,” said Gallant.

She exited her home at 125 Stockwell Hill Road to check the building and the barn for signs of fire. While busy checking that property, Gallant said, someone driving by noticed the neighboring property at 120 Stockwell Hill Road was on fire.

Gallant recounted she bought the fire-damaged property from Metalious, the author of “Peyton Place,” one of the most scandalous books of the mid-20th century.

“I bought the property in May 1964 and Grace died in February,” she said.

Gallant put the 72-foot mobile home on the hilltop property for use by her ex-mother-in-law. Most recently, it was being used for storing a large collection of old china and other antiques Gallant had amassed. She said she had planned to hold a yard sale to raise money to help pay her taxes. Gallant said she was not insured for the loss.

Gallant credits having lightning rods on her own home with dissipating the strike and preventing a fire there.

Because of the remote location, lack of a source of water and the high humidity in which firefighters had to work, Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association called in firefighters and equipment from 10 communities. Tanker trucks from Sanbornton, Meredith, Alton, Barnstead, Belmont, Canterbury, Gilford, Laconia, Loudon, Tilton-Northfield and Meredith, ferried water to the scene.

New Hampshire Electric Cooperative sent a line crew to disconnect power at the street as a live line had burned off the trailer and lay in the driveway.

No injuries were reported but several firefighters were being monitored at the scene by medical crews after showing signs of heat exhaustion.

Gallant, 77, remained upbeat despite the damage, remarking that it would have been far worse had someone been injured.

If lightning is found to be the source of the blaze, Gallant said, it wouldn’t be the first time her family has had property struck and burned.

He paternal grandparents lived on Ladd Hill and had one house destroyed by fire after a lightning strike. They rebuilt next door and again lost all to a fire sparked by lightning.

“All the neighbors came with buckets and tried to put it out but they didn’t have trucks like these back then,” Gallant said, motioning to a long line of idling tankers stretching down the road.

Public Safety History Gilmanton

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