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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ten people left homeless by downtown fire; nobody is injured

NASHUA – Ten people, including a family with five children, were left homeless by a fire that occurred Saturday morning in a multistory building downtown.

Nobody was injured, and it appears that the century-old building can be salvaged.

The fire was called in shortly after 9 a.m. at the 21⁄2 -story wood-frame building at 8 Morrill St., on the corner of Whitney Street, two blocks north of Canal Street.

“I looked out the window and could see the fire, in the grass, up against the side of the building,” said Kevin Mulhern, who lived with his wife, Amy, and their five children in the second-story apartment.

Three of the family’s children – ages 13, 8 and 3 – were home at the time. The family had discussed what to do in an emergency, and the evacuation went pretty smoothly, the parents said.

“We said, kids, get your shoes, get your coat, we’re getting out,” Amy Mulhern said.

A couple and a single person were living in two other apartments. They were also evacuated safety. The fourth apartment is currently not rented, according to the property manager.

The Red Cross offered assistance to the displaced families.

The cause of the fire was undetermined as of Saturday afternoon, said Deputy Fire Chief Brian Rhodes. The Fire Marshal’s Office is still investigating, and it’s unclear whether the fire began outside a bulkhead and moved indoors, or the other way around.

Firefighters attacked the blaze in three ways, Rhodes said: by entering the basement, punching through an exterior first-floor wall, and going into the attic to make sure the flames had not moved up inside the walls.

“These old buildings, it can shoot up through the void spaces like a race car,” Rhodes said.

The building, which stretches back along Morrill Street from Whitney, is about a century old, said Maggie Desantis, property manager for the building’s owners, a local couple. The building has smoke alarms.

Mulhern, a 2004 graduate of Nashua High School, and Amy (Crooker), a 1996 graduate of Alvirne High School, said the first indication that something was wrong came when the kids smelled smoke.

“Usually when you smell smoke, it’s somebody burning bacon,” Amy Mulhern said. “Not this time.”

The couple is planning to buy a house in the area. One concern Saturday was whether any of their furniture, including a new couch, was damaged by smoke or water, although they do have insurance.

The couple said they will be living with in-laws while they settle their future.

But as they stood outside the house Saturday, after being escorted back inside by firefighters to fetch medicines, clothes and a few other essentials, they were grateful.

“Nobody was hurt, that’s what matters,” Amy Mulhern said.

And as an extra bit of good luck, one of their children is about to have a birthday: They had stored all the presents, and Easter goodies, in their car, safe from smoke and flame.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or