Berlin, N.H., fire leaves three dead

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BERLIN, N.H. (AP) – Three bodies were recovered Wednesday in the remains of a fast-moving fire that destroyed several Main Street apartment buildings the previous night, the fire chief said.

New Hampshire Fire Marshal Bill Degnan said authorities removed one body from the smoldering rubble of a triple-decker apartment building Wednesday morning as police and firefighters worked to account for all residents left without homes.

The body was found in the building where the fire started. Officials said a male tenant called 911 around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. The building was not equipped with automatic sprinklers.

On Wednesday afternoon, authorities said two people were missing. Two bodies were found Wednesday evening, Berlin Fire Chief Randall Trull said.

Names were not released, but neighbor Tim Ellis told WMUR-TV that he believed that the two bodies recovered were his daughter and a 5-year-old nephew. He said his daughter called him Tuesday night because of an emergency.

“I went over there, and one corner of the apartment inside was in flames,” Ellis said.

He said that within minutes, the building was engulfed, and the fire spread to five other buildings. He said that he tried to rescue them, “but the smoke was so heavy, I had to back out,” he said.

Fire officials said the fire displaced 13 people and one business. Other businesses lost power and were closed Wednesday.

Earlier, officials said it had been difficult to get a firm head count of residents because of high tenant turnover.

“It was the type of residence where it’s hard to account for everyone,” said Berlin Mayor Bob Danderson.

Police officers and firefighters ran through the burning buildings to alert residents to the flames and carried some to safety.

“From what was described to me, they were at great risk with flames going over their heads during their rescues,” Degnan said. “We’re told that the fire did spread very rapidly and it did trap people inside the building, and the fire department and the police department did help some of those people get out.”

A separate fire Tuesday night at a steel plant across town was not related to the apartment fires.

“That one was accidental. It was just a coincidence that the two of them happened at the same time,” Degnan said.

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