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Three fires break out in nine hours in Tilton, Franklin

Three fires within nine hours made for a long, cold and slippery challenge for firefighters from Franklin and Tilton on Wednesday night.

The first broke out in a double-wide mobile home at 15 Hill Road just after 4:30 p.m. Three people were home.

“The occupants reported smoke and fire from a wall electrical outlet,” Deputy Franklin Fire Chief Robert Goodearl wrote in a press release.

One of the three occupants had returned inside with a fire extinguisher, the release said, but left again after failing to put out the fire. That’s dangerous, Goodearl wrote, because of the risk of getting disoriented and trapped inside.

The fire was under control within a half-hour. One Franklin firefighter was cut while venting a window. The cause is under investigation, Goodearl wrote, but the fire is not considered suspicious.

Tilton-Northfield firefighters assisted at the scene – a favor the Franklin firefighters repaid not long after.

At 7:55 p.m., another fire was reported at a modified mobile home at 29 North Windy Road in Tilton.

According to a press release, a crew from the Tilton-Northfield fire department entered the building to combat the fire, while a Franklin crew laid a backup line and ventilated the building. Firefighters from Sanbornton and Belmont also responded.

“The fire was quickly brought under control,” the Tilton-Northfield press release said, adding that the building was unoccupied. Extensive smoke, heat and water damage caused an estimated $150,000 in damage. The cause of the fire is not known.

Firefighters cleared the scene just before 10:30 p.m.

Then, at 1:05 yesterday morning, firefighters from both communities responded to a fire in a Victorian-style home at 18 Auburn St. in Franklin. The fire, which displaced eight residents, was concentrated within the walls of the building.

One firefighter slipped in the driveway and was later taken to the Franklin Regional Hospital to be checked as a precaution. Franklin police officers hauled sand from the city highway garage and spread it to prevent further falls.

The cause of the fire is believed to be related to a fireplace on the second floor, Franklin fire Chief Kevin LaChappelle said.

To further compound the night’s difficulties, while firefighters were still occupied at Auburn Street, dispatchers received a call about an explosion near 24 Evergreen Ave. in Franklin. The Franklin ambulance and Andover firefighters responded to find a pickup truck in flames. The cause of that fire appears to be a block heater intended to keep the truck’s diesel engine warm.

In an interview, Goodearl said firefighting in extreme cold poses additional challenges, from a loss of dexterity to slipperiness underfoot. It’s also necessary to keep water flowing through lines even after a fire is knocked down, to ensure they don’t freeze before firefighters are able to pack up and leave.

A cold snap can also lead to more incidents. LaChapelle said in a press release that area emergency crews had been “inundated” with a series of calls starting last Sunday at 4:40 a.m. with a blaze caused by a malfunctioning microwave at Mountain Ridge Healthcare on Baldwin Street, followed by a fire that night in a garage on Shaw Road in Northfield.

During such stretches, LaChapelle said, the mutual aid network through which various communities support each other is especially valuable. Firefighters from Laconia and New Hampton also played roles Wednesday, covering stations left empty by the calls.

Still, the system has its limits.

The first of the Franklin fires broke out at the same time as an apartment building fire in Boscawen. No one was injured in that fire; a resident said the occupants of six apartments were displaced. LaChapelle said that the Franklin ladder truck was asked to assist in Boscawen – but it was in action at Hill Road.

To all firefighters, THANKS!

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