By Steve Jusseaume
The Portsmouth Herald, Tuesday, December 30, 2003
[Staff photo by Jackie Ricciardi]
HAMPTON - A three-alarm fire destroyed a storage and repair building at the Hampton Marina early Tuesday morning in a blaze that woke neighbors and damaged several boats stored in and around the structure.
The two-story wood-frame building, which faced the harbor at the west end of the marina, was leveled. Firefighters from 14 communities responded to the fire, which was called in at 3:55 a.m. Foam was used to douse the blaze.
Hampton Engine No. 3 was first on the scene, arriving at 3:59 a.m., and immediately sounded a second alarm. The third alarm was ordered at 4:12 a.m.
"It was a storage building - basically used for boat repair," said Selectman Skip Sullivan, a former fire chief, after surveying the scene at about 9 a.m. "It's been here for years, but it's flat now."
Neighbors described hearing several explosions or "loud booms" at about 4 o'clock.
"My neighbors woke me up just after 4 a.m.," said Ron Dube, who lives at 35 Harbor Road, about 100 yards from the building. "They heard some loud booms. They told me the marina was burning. I looked out the window and saw the flames. The building was engulfed. We're just lucky there was no wind, or it could have spread."
Dube said several boats were stored near the building. "I saw three little boats catch fire, but none of the larger boats in the yard caught fire."
He heard one large boom, he said, then several smaller explosions as the blaze continued.
"Firetrucks got here in only minutes, and the fire seemed contained a short time later. It was all over within an hour," said Dube.
The post-and-beam-style building that housed the repair shop was built by George Smith in the late 1950s, Dube said.
"George built that building by hand. It was pretty strong. It withstood more than a couple storms. It's sad to see it go," he said.
Fire apparatus from Newington, Portsmouth, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Greenland, Newfields, Stratham, Seabrook and North Hampton, as well as from Salisbury and Amesbury in Massachusetts, responded to the fire after the second, then third, alarms were sounded. In all, 15 pieces of equipment and 60 firefighters converged at the scene.
A Salvation Army detachment from York, Maine, also responded.
The fire was declared under control at 5:09 a.m., and the recall was sounded at 9:26 a.m., according to Hampton fire alarm operator Michael Murrey, noting that a fire in Dover coincided with the Hampton Harbor blaze.
"We had a lot of surrounding towns respond, but we had to do some juggling because of the Dover fire," said Murrey.
Several boats were damaged by the fire, he said, adding that the telephone at the Ashworth Avenue fire station was ringing off the hook from people who had boats stored at the facility.
No injuries were reported, according to Murrey.
By 10 a.m., most fire apparatus had left the harbor area, and yellow police tape strung between posts at the marina entrance secured the scene. No one was allowed close to the building.
Fire officials remained at the scene into the afternoon checking for hot spots.
Fire investigators Jon True and Scott MacDonald, who are leading the investigation, described the damage to the building as "heavy."
The state fire marshal's office was also called to the scene. A cause of the blaze has yet to be determined.