Fire at an Apartment Building at 340 Lafayette Road in Hampton, May 10, 2004

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Two-alarm Fire Strikes Apartment

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, May 11, 2004

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

HAMPTON - A number of Hampton residents were left homeless by a two-alarm fire at the Olde Hampton Village apartments Monday afternoon that was possibly sparked by a cat knocking a lighted candle onto a bed.

No one was hurt in the fire, which began on the third floor of Building 2 in the Lafayette Road apartment complex. The apparent cause of the blaze was a candle that had tipped over onto a bed.

{Photo left:} Hampton firefighters stand outside of Building 2 after quickly stopping a blaze at the Olde Hampton Village Apartments, 340 Lafayette Road, Monday afternoon in Hampton. Ten surrounding Seacoast communities were called for mutual aid. Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, which started on the top floor of the three-story, 24-unit apartment building. [Staff Photo by Rich Beauchesne]

Hampton Deputy Fire Chief Chris Silver said firefighters were called to the scene at 12:26 p.m. After arriving, they called for mutual aid from 10 different communities including North Hampton, Portsmouth, Rye and Exeter.

No dollar amount of the damage was available as of Monday evening.

It took firefighters over an hour to extinguish the blaze, Silver said. Area firefighters at the scene said it could have been a lot worse if Hampton firefighters hadn't respond to the scene as quickly as they did.

"We searched the building three times to make sure everyone was out of there," said Silver.

Firefighters climbed onto the roof to help tackle the blaze since it had spread from the third-floor apartment into the attic.

"We had to make cuts in the roof to have ventilation holes," Silver explained.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, said Silver, although Phil Leete, the renter in the apartment where the fire began, said his cat may have knocked over a lighted candle in his bedroom (see separate story below).

"I left my bedroom for a second, and when I came back, the room was filled with smoke," said Leete.

Silver said the fire was confined to three apartments and the attic.

Several ambulances arrived at the scene, he reported, but nobody was transported for treatment.

Leete said he suffered a little smoke inhalation but told everyone he was fine and didn't want to any medical attention.

The Olde Hampton Village Apartment complex is owned by Pegasus Management, the same company that owns the Hampton Arms Apartment Complex, also on Lafayette Road.

The six buildings in Olde Hampton Village each contain 24 apartments. Only Building 2 was affected by the fire.

Numerous residents said they tried to call 911 but had trouble getting through.

One woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she saw the apartment complex in flames and called 911 on her cell phone.

"I was driving down the street with my dad when we saw the fire," she said. "We called 911, and then we pulled into the apartment complex to get everyone out."

The woman and her father ran into the building to warn the people inside.

"My adrenaline is going after running into a burning building," the woman said. "I can honestly say that I have never done that before."

Even though the fire was put out within an hour, Silver said residents still aren't being allowed into the building until the investigation is completed.

The Red Cross set up an office in one of the buildings in the complex to aid the residents who couldn't get back into their apartments.

The management of the complex also was looking for alternative housing for the residents whose apartments were destroyed.

Theresa Swan, who works at Fast Eddie's Restaurant in a shopping plaza next door to the apartment complex, decided to bring soda and sandwiches for the displaced residents and the firefighters who battled the fire.

Swan said her mother lives in Building 1 at the complex.

"It hit close to home, and we wanted to help out," said Swan.

Renter Recalls The Moment Fire Started

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, May 11, 2004

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

HAMPTON - Phil Leete silently paced back and forth as he watched firefighters try to save the place that he's called home for the past four months.

Leete's apartment in Building 2 at the Olde Hampton Village erupted in flames Monday afternoon.

"It happened in my room," said Leete. "I really don't know what happened."

All he remembers is putting on a CD and lighting a candle in his bedroom.

He left the room for a brief moment, and when he returned, his bed had erupted in flames.

"It was a wall of smoke," said Leete. "I ran in there and I couldn't see anything. I yelled my cat's name. She didn't answer me. I don't know whether the cat knocked the candle over or what."

Leete picked up a blanket and tried to smother the fire on his bed, but it was too late. The fire was out of control.

When he realized there was nothing he could do. He ran out of his apartment to warn the other residents of the building.

"I went across the hall and started knocking on all the doors," said Leete. "The alarm was going off and I kept yelling: 'Please get out, please get out, there's a fire."

Everyone got out of the building in time. Firefighters arrived at the scene at 12:26 p.m. and had the fire under control within an hour, according to Hampton Deputy Fire Chief Chris Silver (see related story above). One firefighter rescued Leete's cat from inside the building.

Residents waited outside because they had no other place to go. The Red Cross set up a room for residents in one of the other buildings in the complex.

Owners of the apartment complex said they were going to help residents find another place to sleep Monday night.

Jason Chilson, who lives on the first floor of Building 2, was watching television when he began to smell smoke.

He opened up the sliding door to the outside, looked up and saw that an apartment on the third floor was engulfed in flames. He then heard people screaming that there was a fire.

"I walked out and stuff was falling on my head," said Chilson, adding that he was able to get out of the way before anything hit him.

Kate McCourt, another first-floor resident, was sitting in her den when she heard what she described as a "puff, bang."

"I wondered what the devil it was, because my cats began to freak," she said.

McCourt paced back and forth waiting to talk to a fireman. Three of her cats, Bonkers, Gizmo and Isaac, were still inside her apartment.

"I want to go in there, but they won't let me," said McCourt. "They told me not to worry because my apartment was in no danger, but I would feel a lot better if I was holding my cats right now."

Kevin Sheehan, who has lived in the apartment building for the past three years, was at work in Seabrook at the time of the fire.

A relative called Sheehan, who then raced back to his apartment.

"I'm just glad that everyone was OK," said Sheehan. "I can't believe something like this happened."

The woman who lives in the apartment directly beneath Leete's said she couldn't believe her eyes when she saw smoke from her patio outside.

"I heard a bunch of noise from my apartment; I said to myself what is that guy doing up there," said Diane, who didn't want her last name to be used. "It wasn't like him, because he was always a good neighbor. He came downstairs and told me there was a fire.

Diane said she tried to call 911 but couldn't get through to anyone.

"My apartment is right underneath Leete's, so I'm sure I will have a lot of water damage. But as long as nobody got hurt that's what is important."

Hampton Fire Chief Hank Lipe said the fire was contained to three apartments, and most of the damage was in the attic.

"I lost everything," Leete said. "I'm going to go back up after the firefighters are done. Hopefully something will be there."

While he may have to pick up the pieces and start over, Leete said he's grateful that everyone got out safely.

"There was a couple of older people who live here and I'm just glad they made it out," he said.

Building remains empty after Monday fire

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, May 14, 2004

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

HAMPTON - More than 19 families are still without homes after a two-alarm fire broke out in their apartment complex earlier this week.

While firefighters were able to extinguish the fire Monday afternoon in less than a hour, the apartment where the fire began was heavily damaged, and the rest of building at the Olde Hampton Village on Lafayette Road received extensive smoke damage.

Pegasus Management, which runs the apartment complex owned by Narcissus Real Estate LLC, aided in finding residents temporary housing or hotels.

Jay Cooke, of Pegasus Management, said the residents whose apartments were not damaged will probably be able to return to their homes next week.

Pegasus Management said even though the fire was contained, residents needed alternative housing because the gas and power in the building were turned off.

Hampton Fire Inspector Jonathan True said the department is still doing its investigation. A representative of the state fire marshal's office said it has not been called in to aid in the investigation.

Phil Lette, the renter of the unit where the fire originated, said the fire was caused after his cat knocked over a lighted candle in his bedroom.

Lette, who doesn't have renters insurance, said he lost everything.

While the building was blocked off Monday night with yellow caution tape, some people could be seen sneaking into apartments to see if anything was damaged.

Windows that were smashed by firefighters were either replaced or boarded up with ply wood.

On Tuesday night, some returned to grab some of their clothes and personal belongings.

Jason Chilson, who lives on the first floor, said everything in his apartment was fine, but not the items he stored in the attic.

"Everything I had up in storage is gone," said Chilson.

On Thursday, SERVPRO, a cleaning and restoration company, was seen working inside the building.

SERVPRO will work to determine what can be restored and what can be replaced. The company will also decide the most effective cleaning method and the full extent of the loss.

Pegasus Management commended the Hampton Fire Department, as well as firefighters from the 10 other communities that aided in extinguishing the fire.

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