Blaze claims elderly couple

Investigation cites careless disposal of smoking materials as cause of fire

The site on Gail Road in Merrimack where a fire claimed two lives.

MERRIMACK – A fire on Gail Road in Merrimack claimed two lives early Tuesday morning.

At about 12:39 a.m., a passerby alerted Merrimack Fire Department Station 2 (Naticook Road) of a potential structure fire, and after battling the blaze, firefighters found two victims inside the home. Both were removed and pronounced dead at the scene.

The New Hampshire Fire Marshal’s Office, the Merrimack Fire Department and the Merrimack Police Department investigated the fire. It was determined that Larry Hall, 84, and Pauline Hall, 84, were the victims after autopsies were conducted Tuesday by the New Hampshire State Medical Examiner’s Office. The manner of death for both is being listed accidental.

A joint investigation revealed that the fire originated in the living room of the single-family home, with the cause appearing to be careless disposal of smoking materials. Crews found medical oxygen equipment in the area of origin, which may have contributed to the fire’s growth. In addition, there were no working smoke alarms in the house.

Merrimack Assistant Chief Brian Borneman said they’re unsure who it was that alerted crews at Station 2 about the fire, but believes they might live close by. Nonetheless, while Merrimack firefighters responded to the scene, they had mutual aid cover their station.

He said firefighters initially thought they might be looking for a brush fire, and actually drove upon the fire at 7 Gail Road.

“They knocked the fire down relatively quickly,” Borneman said. “Obviously they were on the scene for a while for investigation and those kinds of things.”

A neighbor of the Hall’s, and longtime friend of Larry Hall’s, said he was coming through the neighborhood at about 11:45 p.m. Monday night, and there was nothing really going on.

“Then I got home 15 minutes later and heard some yelling and screaming, and then I saw a bunch of vehicles pull up, so I knew something had gone wrong … not quite sure what,” the neighbor, who would only give his first name, Mark, said.

When the neighbor moved into the area in 1997, he said Larry Hall was the first person to visit him, stopping by his house looking for the dad of the house. At the time, the neighbor had two children, who are now grown up, but Hall was still the first to take notice of the newest family on the block and made his way over to introduce himself, sparking the friendship they’d share for years to come. He said they were nice people, but hadn’t seen much of them in the last year or so, saying that they’ve been dealing with illnesses.

“I know he loved his wife very, very much, and I know he was very bothered by her being a little bit more further along than he was, but they were really good people,” the neighbor said.

He said Larry Hall was a sportsman for much of his life, and that he was also a Navy veteran.

“They loved each other very much, and it’s almost poetic that they both went,” the neighbor said. “I mean it’s a tragedy and it’s a loss, but I know that one wouldn’t want to be left around without the other. They loved each other that much.”

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or