Holiday Fire Hits Hotel

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By Ann Moore

Hampton Union, September 3, 1975

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

A four alarm fire swept the Ocean Squire Motor Inn at 81 Ocean Blvd. and K St. Hampton Beach early Labor Day morning.

According to witnesses, fire and smoke engulfed the building as guests ran screaming into the street.

The three-and-a-half story building was "completely involved" according to Lt. William Sullivan who called the third alarm at 5:58 a.m., just three minutes after the fire was reported. Police officers and firefighters evacuated guests, as the fire department set up water curtains between the burning motel and buildings just a few feet away.

Firefighters from Hampton and six neighboring towns fought the blaze for over three hours before it was brought under control. Firefighters then began a painstaking search of the smoldering ruins for three people believed trapped in the blaze.

At 2:30 p.m. police received word from the Customs officials at the Canadian-U.S. border that the couple, Mr. and Mrs. Simoyan with their child and a friend, Arman Seygen, was stopped at the border reroute to Montreal at 1:10 p.m.

According to Lt. David Collins of the Hampton Fire Department the Simoyans had been awakened by the screaming and yelling. Mr. Simoyan opened the door in the hall, had seen flames and evacuated his family by way of glass doors onto a balcony to the street. The Simoyan family with Seygen left for Canada without notifying anyone. Seygen was staying at the adjacent Harris Sea Ranch next door which was evacuated by Det. Sgt. Norman Brown and Patrolman Dennis Pelletier.

One report stated that a man who was walking his dog on the beach ran into the building, beat on the motel doors and shouted a warning to occupants to hurry out. A telephone operator called fire headquarters to report the blaze.

A critical lack of available water early in the fire, was caused by six-inch antiquated water mains whose effective diameters had been reduced to four inches by many years of accumulated corrosion and other buildup, according to the fire department.

Thousands of persons, many of them finishing up vacations on Labor Day, saw the blaze and also watched later as cranes brought up debris and loaded it onto trucks.

The Ocean Squire Motel generally closes after Labor Day, while the restaurant beneath it, both owned by John J. Cardarelli who lives on the premises, stays open all year.

A Hampton Fire Department official said," If the fire had occurred on Saturday night there would have been many more persons registered as guests at the hotel."

Mrs. Michelle Aubrey and Mrs. Claudette Aubrey of Montreal said they and their husbands were awakened by the sounds of people shouting and breaking glass and by smoke. They pitched their suitcases through a window, then climbed down a fire escape and scrambled over the top of a car parked beneath.

According to Fire Marshall Raymond Dewhurst, the blaze began "near a staircase upstairs." Cause of the fire and cause of ignition are unknown, Collins said.

The building was completely demolished. It housed Giovanni's Italian Restaurant, Ann Marie's Beauty Shop, fifteen guest rooms and an apartment for the owners John and Mary Carderelli.

Firefighters kept the flames from spreading to adjacent properties. The small guest house behind the Ocean Squire had windows broken by the intense heat but no fire damage. The Harris Sea Ranch on Ocean Blvd. had some scorching of the adjacent wall. The department was aided by a westerly wind which blew flames and smoke seaward.

Police Sgt. William Ritchie and Patrolman Don Barnard entered the burning building to get people out. They were joined by Dennis Pelletier and William Cross, formerly a call fireman, entered the building with an air pack to assist those trying to escape.

When the police officers were driven from the building by heat, smoke and flame, they took up hose positions until more fire equipment arrived.

Meanwhile, Det. Sgt. Norman Brown and Dennis Pelletier evacuated the adjacent motel and set up a command post to account for survivors. It was through their efforts, Police Chief Clayton Bousquin said, that the identity of the missing couple was established. They also identified the car and license plate of Simonyan and Seygen which led to the confirmation of their safety as they crossed the border.

"No human being should have been in there, but the police officers went in and physically rescued at least six people," Fire Chief Robert Fitz said. "Lt. William Sullivan hosed down the men while they got the people out," Fitz continued, "those men should get a commendation."

Chief Fitz said, "God bless 'em," when asked for a comment concerning the men.

"Lieutenant William Sullivan, his driver Jim Hunt, with William Sturgis on the ladder truck and the ambulance crew Tom Norton and Richard Trofatter were the first firefighters on the scene.

By the time the men arrived from the uptown station, the rescue work was over, the fire had driven everyone on to the street," Fitz said.

While a chance existed that the Simonyans and their child were in the ruins, firefighters continued to comb the wreckage. A crane from Badger Rand Contractors in Portsmouth was ordered by the department to assist in removing the debris.

Asked what the fire loss was, John Carderelli said," sixteen years of my life."

State Senator Robert Preston and his wife Charlotte opened their nearby hotel to fire victims, and assisted police officers with the head count.

Yvonne and John Porier, owners of the Corona House on the corner opposite the fire opened a window onto K St. and gave firefighters coffee and doughnuts until the fire auxiliary arrived.

Mrs. Porier's sister-in-law told how she had looked out her window at the Corona House and seen a policeman jump from the balcony onto a car, with someone in his arms. The officer was Sgt. Ritchie, chief Fitz confirmed later.

While firefighters searched the rubble, an announcement was made over the ambulance public address system in French and English asking for information about the missing victims.

Police routed traffic onto Ashworth Ave., closing Ocean Boulevard for several hours in the holiday traffic. Bousquin said Seabrook police assisted by re-routing northbound traffic., The Sheriff's department, state police, the Meter Patrol all gave help in protecting the crowd of about 1000 who gathered to watch the blaze. Normal traffic flow was established on Ocean Blvd. just after noon.

The fire spread so quickly many guests lost nearly all their belongings. Ann Marie Cardarelli , daughter of the owners who is to be married October 4 to Bruce Goodwin of Salisbury, Mass., lost their wedding gown and invitations in the fire.

Cardarelli, owner of the burned building, who operated Giovanni's Restaurant with his wife Mary, said they would rebuild. "When something has been this good to you over the years, why leave the beach?" he commented.

The location is a few blocks south of the casino.

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