Cause of fatal Wilson Street fire due to careless smoking

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MANCHESTER, NH – New Hampshire State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan, Manchester Fire Chief Daniel Goonan, and Manchester Police Chief Enoch Willard, announce the investigation into a fire that claimed a family of four at 198 Wilson Street,  has concluded.

As a result of the investigation, the fire has been classified as accidental due to ignition of an upholstered furniture item by discarded smoking materials.  The fire originated and smoldered undetected on the second floor exterior porch for approximately an hour and a half before it developed into flames.  Once this transition occurred, the smoke and fire moved rapidly through the exterior porches and into the victims’ apartment, making the conditions immediately inescapable.

Investigators found no credible evidence to indicate a fire was set to cause physical injury to people, or to damage or destroy the building.

Investigation summary: The Manchester Fire Department was dispatched at 5:10 a.m. on June 6, 2016 to the 198 Wilson St. for a structure fire with reports that occupants were still inside. The fire was discovered and reported by multiple neighbors as well as occupants from within the building.

Engine and Truck 7 from the Somerville Street Station was the first to arrive on scene at 5:12 a.m. Responding units encountered heavy fire conditions involving the second- and third-floor rear porches of the nine-unit (7 residential and 2 commercial business) building and a second alarm was immediately transmitted.

The fire eventually reached four alarms, and was brought under control in approximately two hours. During the fire suppression operations, the Manchester Fire Department discovered and removed four occupants from a second floor apartment. The two adults removed from the apartment were pronounced deceased at the scene, and the two children that were removed were pronounced deceased at the Elliot Hospital.

The NH State Medical Examiner’s Office previously identified the victims as:

Josh Harrison – 33 

Ailene Moody – 39 

Joshua Harrison Jr. – 10

Jay Michael Garon – 8 

The cause of all deaths was determined to be smoke inhalation and the manner of death was accidental.

The fire was investigated by members of the Manchester Fire and Police Departments, the NH State Fire Marshal’s Office, as well as The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

State Fire Marshal Degnan would like to warn all citizens of the dangers of poor housekeeping coupled with improper disposal of smoking materials. Please also take time to ensure you have working smoke alarms in your home, and that you have and practice a home fire escape plan.

Any further inquiries can be directed to the NH State Fire Marshal’s Office – Bureau of Investigations, Investigator Sean Plumer, or District Chief Daniele Cole at (603) 223-4289, or to the Manchester Fire Department Deputy Fire Marshal John Reese at (603) 669-2256.

About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!