×

Bow fire adds misery to a woman who’s already lost a lot

  • Firefighters look out for hotspots at a fire at 14 Birchdale Road in Bow on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Concord Monitor

  • A Firefighters pours water on hot spots at a fire at 14 Birchdale Road in Bow on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Concord Monitor

  • A firefighters pours water on hotspots at a fire at 14 Birchdale Road in Bow on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Concord Monitor

  • Smoke rises from a house fire at 14 Birchdale Road in Bow on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2018. Firefighters from around the region were on scene to fight the blaze. GEOFF FORESTER—Concord Monitor

  • Firefighters look out for hot spots at a fire at 14 Birchdale Road in Bow on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Concord Monitor

  • Smoke rises from a house fire at 14 Birchdale Road in Bow on New Year’™s Day, Jan. 1, 2018. Firefighters from around the region were on scene to fight the blaze. GEOFF FORESTER—Concord Monitor

  • Firefighters put out hot spots at a fire at 14 Birchdale Road in Bow on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Concord Monitor

  • Smoke rises from a house fire at 14 Birchdale Road in Bow on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2018. Firefighters from around the region were on scene to fight the blaze. GEOFF FORESTER—Concord Monitor

  • A firefighter comes out of the smoke from a house fire at 14 Birchdale Road in Bow on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2018. Firefighters from around the region were on scene to fight the blaze. GEOFF FORESTER—Concord Monitor

  • A firefighter uses a hose to douse a car in front of the house at 14 Birchdale Road in Bow on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2018. Firefighters from around the region were on scene to fight the blaze. GEOFF FORESTER—Concord Monitor

  • Firefighters look out for hotspots at a fire at 14 Birchdale Road in Bow on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Concord Monitor



Monitor staff
Monday, January 01, 2018

With Bow homeowner Rita Hodgman shivering under a blanket and crying in a van 200 yards away, firefighters from a dozen departments fought a three-alarm fire Monday that destroyed the back of Hodgman’s house and made the rest of it uninhabitable due to smoke and water damage.

No one was hurt at 14 Birchdale Road, where single-digit temperatures and the lack of a close water supply made a tough job tougher. Hodgman, who records show bought the house in 1996, is a widow who lived there with her son – the last survivor among her five children. The married caretaking team of Jacqueline and Jason Clement and their 13-year-old daughter, Isabelle Clement, also lived at the house, which was built in 1936.

Jacqueline Clement sat in a Kia’s driver’s seat as the sun set and the temperature dropped, about three hours after the first alarm had sounded. She cradled a rescued bunny on her lap, with Hodgman in the passenger seat, her head resting against the door, and Isabelle in the back with another rabbit and the family dog.

By then, the fire had been reduced to a huge billow of rolling white smoke and several hotspots. Bow fire Chief Mitchell Harrington said investigators will need “a couple of days,” before they might know what caused the fire, which seemed to have started in a structure that Harrington said was a combined barn and garage.

“Fully involved in flames when we arrived,” Harrington said of the structure.

Fire officials said the first call came in about 1:30 p.m., when many firefighters had already started their New Year’s celebration, always mindful that their plans could change at any moment.

For example, Bow Deputy Fire Chief Don Eaton was preparing chip dip and shrimp when the call came in.

“I was waiting for house guests, and they’re all there now,” Eaton said. “But duty calls. It’s a nice cold, cold day. Seven degrees, the last time I checked.”

Harrington was painting his living room when he left for work, saying, “I’d rather be here doing this.”

He and his firefighter brothers – from Bow, Dunbarton, Concord, Goffstown, Chichester, Weare, Canterbury, Epsom, Hooksett, Warner, Allenstown and Pembroke – had to contend with a water supply located more than a mile away, meaning water had to be hauled in using tankers.

Harrington mentioned that at the last town meeting Bow had approved funding for a new 3,000-gallon tanker, which had nearly doubled the capacity of the old tanker.

“Our first time using it,” Harrington said. “A big help.”

Another obstacle – albeit only a slight one, according to Dunbarton Chief Jon Wiggin – was the nearby bridge on Route 13, which has been under repair the past year after being red-listed by the state.

“It delayed response for some of the towns,” Wiggin said, “but I don’t think it would have been significant.”

Add solid ice along Birchdale Road and covering Hodgman’s backyard, which featured snow-covered playground equipment, snowmobiles and a charred car with its hood open, and the Bow Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary was a welcome sight during a very difficult start to the year.

The organization is made up in part of wives of local firefighters, including Heather Abbott, whose husband, Justin Abbott, works on the Bow force and whose father-in-law, Dana Abbott, retired recently after leading the department for 30 years.

She was joined by a team that included 13-year-olds Garrett Van Dyke (father Mike is with the Bow Fire Department) and Kayla Buxton, who were on their first date when the call came in.

Together, auxiliary members brought Gatorade, coffee, tomato soup and sandwiches, carrying supplies for a few hundred yards over icy conditions.

“After so many years, you know what to do,” Abbott said.

Meanwhile, a statement from Dan Brown of the New Hampshire Red Cross said Hodgman and the others who lived at her home would be supplied with food, clothing and shelter Monday night, when temperatures were expected to drop well below zero.

Hodgman said four of her five children have died, as has her husband. As she sat in Jacqueline Clement’s van huddled in a blanket, an old friend named Kevin Jenkins of Concord leaned into the window to comfort Hodgman.

Crying, Jenkins said, “I’m so sorry. You guys can come live with me. Take my house. I don’t care.”