Cause of Fire Undetermined

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Chief: Origins of Blaze Not Suspicious

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, March 23, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Flocks of onlookers came to Hampton Beach on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010, to view the charred remains of buildings after a blaze leveled a portion of an Ocean Boulevard block in Hampton on Thursday.
[Scott Yates photo.]

HAMPTON -- Fire officials are still investigating the cause of last month's fire that leveled a block of businesses at Hampton Beach, including the Surf Motel.

Hampton Fire Chief Chris Silver said the department's investigators are still working with the state fire marshal's office to determine the cause of the Feb. 25 fire.

"Right now, it's still undetermined," said Silver, who noted that it doesn't appear to be suspicious.

Silver said the insurance companies involved have released the property back to the owners, who will soon begin the process of cleaning up the debris.

The chief said the insurance companies will probably release a cause before the department does. While the insurance companies are looking into whether to pay the claims or not, Silver said the formal investigation has to be more thorough.

"We have to be able to defend our determination in court," Silver said.

Hampton firefighters, with the help from 40 fire departments from as far away as Laconia, vigorously battled the blaze that erupted in the first floor of the Surf Motel close to midnight on Thursday, Feb. 25.

The blaze was fueled by 90-plus mph winds from a Nor'easter.

When the fire was finally brought under control after 4½ hours early Friday morning on Feb. 26, the motel, Happy Hampton Arcade, Mrs. Mitchell's souvenir shop and two other properties were determined to be a total losses.

An additional six to eight properties were damaged, including the Moulton Hotel.

Owners of Happy Hampton, as well as Mrs. Mitchell's have already said they plan to rebuild.

Bob Mitchell said their goal is to clean up the site for the summer and start rebuilding in the fall with hopes of reopening in 2011.

Three generations of family members, he said, worked in the gift shop that was opened by his grandparents, Freda and George Mitchell, in 1966.

"We want to get back what we lost," Mitchell said. "That is our main objective right now. Our hopes is to reopen Mrs. Mitchell's."

Fire Investigator Jon True estimates that the damage from the fire to be at least $9.5 million.

That number takes into account the loss of the businesses and inventory, damage to Fire Department equipment and other costs.

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