By Brian Dekoning
Foster's Daily Democrat Staff Writer
HAMPTON — Area firefighters called Wednesday’s blaze on Ocean Boulevard the worst in recent memory.
A fire that began shortly after 2 p.m. destroyed two buildings and severely damaged a third. The Old Salt Eating and Drinking Place and the Beach Walk building were each destroyed in the blaze and the Springfield Motor Lodge was severely damaged.
More than 200 firefighters from 23 departments assisted.
"There hasn’t been a fire like that around here in a long, long time," said Exeter Fire Chief John Carbonneau, who has been a firefighter since 1966. "This is right up there for the volume of fire. I can’t recall I’ve seen anything with this much involvement and this many structures."
Hampton Fire Chief Henry Lipe said the fire was spread by stiff winds blowing inland from the sea. Lipe added that the several layers of old roofing in the buildings gave the fire material and oxygen to burn.
"Some of these buildings are 100-years-old," Lipe said. "The fire gets up in between different layers of roofing and it’s just that much more difficult to get to."
Lipe added that there hadn’t been a fire as severe since the 1950s.
The fire raged for more than three hours and spread between the three buildings in less than 20 minutes, according to witnesses.
"One of the more surprising aspects of this fire," North Hampton Fire Chief Tom Lambert said, "was how quickly it spread. To have a populated area and that much involvement that quick, it was going pretty good by the time we got there."
Both Lambert and Carbonneau credited the mutual aid system and technological advances in firefighting for helping firefighters to contain the fire relatively quickly.
"It would have been worse 10-15 years ago," Carbonneau said. "This demonstrates the value of having that mutual aid system and of the training that each firefighter goes through."
Carbonneau said better quality firefighting suits, more powerful hoses and improvements in training all combined with firefighters’ hard work to control the blaze.
"There’s always some criticism of going to another town," Carbonneau added. "But when it’s your turn to receive, it really shows the value of assistance and incident command training."