3-alarm blaze on Beech Street displaces several families, causes $500K in damage

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Several residents were displaced by a 3-alarm fire at this Beech Street apartment house. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

MANCHESTER, NH – No one was seriously injured in a three-alarm blaze Tuesday in a 12-unit apartment building on Beech St.

The fire was called in at 11:55 a.m. and once a third alarm was sounded, all available personnel – 125 firefighters – were on the scene.

Fire companies rescued six pets and limited fire spread to six of the 12 apartments.

Although there were no residents injured, four emergency service personnel were treated – two were heat-related, one suffered a laceration and another suffered a shoulder injury. Despite the heat factor, no firefighters suffered heat exhaustion because there were enough fire crews on scene to rotate them in and out,  said Fire Chief Andre Parent.

Bri Miller escaped the blaze with her daughter, Freya. Photo/Pat Grossmith

Brie Miller, 20, and Mike Sverker, 20, were asleep in the second-floor apartment at 461 Beech St. that they share with his mother when Miller said she heard knocking on the door.

“I ignored it at first but then I heard banging on it,” she said.  She opened the door to find her downstairs neighbor. He told her they had to get out, there was a fire.

“Oh, shit, fire,” she said.  She quickly grabbed their 1 1/2 -year-old daughter Freya while Sverker took 5-month-old Mia and they fled the building.

She was shoeless, he shirtless, but the family was safe.  Standing outside, they watched as a firefighter from the ladder truck poured water directly atop the building in the section where their apartment is located.

They fled literally with the clothes on their backs, leaving behind their cell phones, car keys and his wallet.  Without the keys, they were unable to get into their car to get a stroller.

A smoky haze emanated throuhout the neighborhood from a fire Tuesday that did heavy damage to an apartment house at the 400-block of Beech Street. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

A neighbor lent Miller a pair of sandals and another neighbor, Kami Pendleberry, gave her disposable diapers, wipes and a few outfits for her daughters.  Miller couldn’t thank her enough.

“My daughters have babies,” said Pendleberry.  “We’re just glad to help.”

Tawasha Gardner was at work when her son called her to say the building was on fire and he had to get her disabled mother out.  Gardner immediately went home to find, thankfully, that her family was safe and out of the building.

Firefighters returned many pets to residents, including this lizard belonging to Tawasha Gardner. Photo/Pat Grossmith

They live in a three-bedroom apartment at 457 Beech St., the south end of the building which sustained smoke damage but apparently no water damage since the fire started at the other end of the building.

Gardner said firefighters retrieved her lizard and a cat but other pets were still inside.  A firefighter told her the pets should be OK because the smoke damage was minor.

Chief Parent said the city’s Fire Marshal and police are investigating the cause of the blaze and are looking at the possibility it started in trash cans in the back

Every available fire apparatus was on site, he said, while fire crews from surrounding towns covered the city’s fire stations. 

Beating the heat: Firefighters cooled off in shifts as Tuesday’s high temperatures added to the challenge of fighting the 3-alarm blaze. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

The tan building with white trim has 12 apartments and a multiple address of 457-463 Beech St.  It was built in 1910.  The owner is listed as 258 Merrimack St. Realty Trust of 67 Ridgefield Drive, Milford. 

Parent, who has been with the fire department for 34 years, said he passes the building every day heading to work and has often thought what would happen if it ever caught fire.  

“Today was that day,” he said.

Fortunately, everyone got out safely but, by early afternoon, it was unclear how many residents will be displaced.  Parent said Eversource turned off power for the entire block as firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze.  Tenants would not be able to return until power is restored.

Damage was estimated at about $500,000. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The Red Cross remained at the scene for several hours to assist residents.

Firefighters battled a 3-alarm blaze at 457-463 Beech St. on Aug. 2. Photo/Pat Grossmith






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Pat Grossmith

Pat Grossmith is a freelance reporter.