Careless Disposal of Smoking Materials Causes Apartment Fire

Careless disposal of smoking materials has been ruled as the cause of a fire that ripped through an apartment building at 4 Martin St. this past Saturday.

Derry Fire Battalion Chief Jack Webb said the call came through at 8:07 a.m. through the municipal alarm system. Webb said the building at 4 Martin St., constructed in 1900, has an alarm that is connected to the Fire Department and the department was immediately informed. The building alarm was followed by a 9-1-1 notification two minutes later, he said.

The fire crews were on the scene by 8:10 a.m., Webb said. Initially, Derry Engine 2 and Medic 1 were called to the scene, he said.

Webb wrote in a press release that upon arrival, Engine 1 found heavy fire and smoke blowing out of two windows of a first-floor apartment. Webb wrote, “The crew initiated a rapid, aggressive, transitional fire attack, cooling the fire apartment from the outside with a hand line before moving inside the building.” Upon moving inside the fire crew approached the “fire apartment,” where they encountered heavy fire, zero visibility and extreme heat.

Two of the building’s 17 occupants were asleep at the time of the fire and had to be awakened and evacuated, Webb said. The building houses a few couples, mostly adult singles, and no children, Webb said.

Additional fire companies were called in to assist with fighting the fire, check for the fire’s spreading and examine the top two floors and basement. Due to the size of the building and complexity of the fire, a second alarm was called to assist with completing the tasks, according to Webb.

The fire in the first-floor apartment was quickly extinguished, Webb said, and there were no injuries to firefighters, civilians or pets. The Fire Department was able to safely evacuate “a half dozen cats,” he said.

The fire was under control by 8:48 a.m., Webb said. He credited the rapid suppression to several factors. The crews on duty had recently completed a pre-plan for fighting a possible fire in the structure. Also, Fire Chief George Klauber, the Derry Fire Prevention Bureau and Red Oak Property Management, the building’s owners, had worked together to install a modern alarm system and fire doors.

Webb wrote, “The fire alarm provided early notification directly to the Fire Department, while the fire doors automatically closed and isolated the fire and most severe smoke to a single hallway.”

After evaluation by the Derry Fire Department and Health Department, it was determined that three apartments could not be safely reoccupied: the “fire apartment,” the adjacent apartment and the one directly over the fire apartment. The fire apartment had serious fire damage and the other two suffered from smoke damage, Webb said.

The three-story apartment building has 15 rental units and also houses two businesses that have an address at 5 West Broadway. The majority of the units were able to be reoccupied and the businesses were able to reopen, Webb said.

West Broadway (Route 102) was closed for more than an hour on Saturday, with Derry Police providing traffic control.

Mutual aid was provided by Londonderry, Windham, Salem, Chester, Hampstead and Auburn, with station coverage by Manchester, Hooksett, Hudson and Plaistow. The department also responded to four ambulance calls. However, the busy Saturday did not prevent the department from holding its annual Open House, Webb noted.

Webb said that all displaced occupants were able to make arrangements to stay with family  members.