The Fire of 2010
February 26, 2010
HAMPTON -- A fire fueled by heavy winds quickly spread from the Surf Motel to adjacent buildings and destroyed a block of businesses before it was brought under control early Friday morning.
“This is a sad day,” said Hampton Beach Area Commission Chairman John Nyhan. “These folks have worked hard all these years, struggling to make ends meet these last few years. And to have this happen. It’s just horrible.”
The ferocious blaze started late Thursday at the Surf Motel in Hampton. The 600 to 800 block of five wood-frame buildings, including the Happy Hampton Arcade and Mrs. Mitchell’s, quickly caught fire.
Firefighters battled the blaze that erupted close to midnight Thursday and by the time it was under control around 4:30 a.m. Friday morning all five properties were determined to be a total loss.
An additional 6 to 12 properties received fire damage.
Most of the businesses in the area, including the Surf Motel, are open only in the summer. Nobody was in any of the businesses of the time of the fire and one person living above the Happy Hampton evacuated safely.
Hampton Fire Chief Chris Silver said the weather at the time was rainy and windy because of the storm moving up the Atlantic Coast which helped fuel the flames.
The chief said it took crews roughly five minutes to respond to the fire because one crew was on the scene of a fire that erupted in the basement of a Winnacunnet Road property, and another crew was on a mutual aid call out of town.
According to Silver, the Hampton Beach station was without power and dispatch had to be rerouted through the town fire station.
The department was also inundated with calls related to the nor’easter including downed trees and wired from 60-mile-per-hour winds.
Silver said the high winds coming from east pushed the fire horizontally towards the other buildings.
“We were concerned at one point that it would spread across Ashworth Avenue,” Silver said.
Most of the buildings were 50 years old and were not outfitted with sprinklers. The Hampton Happy Arcade has a sprinkler system but it was shut off earlier that day because it was damaged. This isn’t the first time the area was ravaged by fire.
Silver said the same area was completely devastated by fire in 1915, 1923, and again 1950. This was the most devastating fire in recent years since the Old Salt Fire in 1999 and the Valentine’s Day Fire 2007 which destroyed nine buildings.
More than a dozen people were relocated. A shelter, operated by the American Red Cross, was opened at the Winnacunnet High School.
The fire department was assisted by more than 40 communities including departments from Massachusetts and Maine.
Silver said while officials were battling the blaze the department received roughly 30 additional calls for service. As a result the department requested a mutual aid task force from the Lakes Region that brought an additional six engines, two ladders and an ambulance.
“In the town of Hampton, all requests did get a response,” Silver said. Silver estimates there were more than 165 firefighters operating in the community throughout the event.
By Patrick Cronan, SeacoastOnline.com
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.