Homeless On Christmas Eve

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By Susan Morse

Hampton Union, Friday, December 27, 2002

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Firefighters put down a ladder after removing it from the roof of a building that
caught fire Christams Eve on Hampton Beach. [Staff photo by Carrie Niland]

HAMPTON - No one was injured in a three-alarm fire that burned 12 people out of their homes at 7 F St. in Hampton Beach on Christmas Eve.

Firefighters responded at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The fire quickly went to three alarms, according to Kevin Lemoine, dispatcher at the Hampton Fire Department.

"It's the biggest fire we've had this winter," he said.

Seventy-five firefighters from 12 area towns responded. The fire caused heavy damage to the second and third floors where the apartments are located, as well as the roof. The first floor, which houses a doughnut and coffee shop, suffered moderate damage.

The fire also damaged the siding to an adjacent building, Pappy's Pizza at 5 F St.

Towns that assisted included North Hampton, Hampton Falls, Seabrook, Exeter, Portsmouth, Greenland, Stratham, Rye, and from Massachusetts, Newburyport, Amesbury and Salisbury

The owner of 7 F St. is JR Russo Corp. of Andover, Mass.

American Red Cross volunteers of the Great Bay Chapter were immediately at the scene Tuesday night, after the Hampton Fire Department contacted them, according to Sarah Cherne, director of Development and Community Relations.

"Basically it's a total loss," she said.

Six Red Cross workers provided food, clothing and shelter in an area motel to residents of four of the apartments. Another family went immediately to a relative's house and another resident was out of town at the time of the fire. The Red Cross has not been able to contact that resident, Cherne said.

Volunteers also gave firefighters food and hot coffee.

One family had two children ages 8 and younger. Volunteers rounded up enough toys to make sure the kids had presents to open on Christmas Day, Cherne said.

Also, because it was Christmas, volunteers knew that those who needed to buy clothing and supplies would be unable to get to a store.

"On Christmas Day, everything is closed," Cherne said.

One Red Cross worker stopped on the way to Hampton Tuesday night to grab some clothing to give to the victims, knowing that no stores would be open the next day, Cherne said.

Those displaced were also given money to purchase toiletries and clothing.

The Red Cross will be able to provide housing to the four families until the end of the weekend, Cherne said, stressing the organization's goal of providing immediate assistance. After that, the organization will try to help each family on a case to case basis, she said.

"We're the bridge and if the bridge needs to be extended, we'll do that," she said.

Not helping matters, this is the fifth fire of the season for the Great Bay chapter. The Red Cross has already exceeded its disaster budget for the year.

Donations may be made to assist these and other victims of fires by calling 436-2600 in Portsmouth. Checks may be sent to Great Bay Chapter, American Red Cross, 1 Junkins Avenue, #4, Portsmouth, NH, 03801.

[Sara Newbury contributed to this story.]

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