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Neighbors help neighbors evacuate as massive fire destroys Portsmouth buildings

Union Leader Correspondent

April 10. 2017 8:45AM
Fire could still be seen still in the ceiling of the 5th floor apartment at 268 State Street Monday morning. KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent 

PORTSMOUTH — People who escaped from a six-alarm fire at 268 State St. early Monday morning were grateful everyone made it out alive.

Sean Stewart and his roommate, Dan Hayes, were awakened by loud banging on their door about 12:30 a.m., Stewart said. He opened his door to smoke in the hallway of his second-floor apartment.

In the stairwell, the men ran into long-time resident Leigh Woodbury, who was helping an 87-year-old man who lived on the top floor of the five-story building, down the stairs.

Stewart, Hayes and Woodbury helped the elderly gentleman down the stairs while smoke and fire filled the building.

“At that point, you’re just trying to help everybody get out of there safely. It was extremely smoky, so it was the least we could do,” Stewart said.

He and Hayes were able to escape with their car keys and cell phones. Other residents weren’t so lucky.

Woodbury, who went upstairs to get the elderly man, said she wishes she had grabbed their medications. On Monday morning, she was holding a blanket from the Red Cross.

“Everything I owned was up there,” Woodbury said.

By 7 a.m., city residents were stopping near the blocked-off scene to take pictures and video.

Some were saddened the city lost the historic State Street Saloon, in one of the buildings at 268 State St.

The saloon was on the ground floor of the building that collapsed in the fire.

Crews were still dousing that building with water Monday morning.

“It’s a place where the locals get to go hang out. It’s kind of like the Cheers of Portsmouth,” Middle Street resident Tom Deschuytner said. “After a long day, you knew everybody was going to be over at the saloon, and you could go see friends and stuff like that. It’s tragic.”

Fire officials said they believe everyone who lived in the apartments was able to escape.

As of Monday morning, there were no reported injuries to residents.

VIDEO -- Man who escaped Portsmouth fire speaks to Kimberley Haas:

Fires Portsmouth

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