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‘Under the Bridge:’ Homeless camp in Nashua catches fire; cooking site blamed

NASHUA – In yet another symptom of the city’s burgeoning homelessness problem, a cooking fire got out of control late Sunday night at an encampment, located under the bridge that carries the Broad Street Parkway over the Nashua River.

Nashua Fire Rescue officials received the call at 10:41 p.m. Sunday for a fire occurring beneath the bridge on the side of the Cotton Mill apartment complex. Fire Marshal Adam Pouliot said during the last two months or so, the homeless camp beneath the bridge has evolved. He said there are now homeless people staying on each side of the bridge. He said since Sunday’s blaze, the Nashua Division of Public Works has cleared the debris on the underside of the bridge.

Also, it is now posted that there is to be “no trespassing” in the area.

“Everything indicates that it was a cooking fire that got out of control,” Pouliot said.

With the camps that had popped up on either side of the bridge, he said people living at the Cotton Mill and Clocktower Place apartment complexes can see when fires are starting. He said firefighters have responded to multiple fires during the last two months.

“Over the last couple months, the fire department has responded on numerous occasions to outside fires under the bridge.

Most of them have been non-permitted campfires,” Pouliot said.

Pouliot said Sunday’s fire was knocked down and was under control in about an hour, while there were no injuries involved. He said beneath the bridge, officials saw mattresses, clothing, blankets and tarps suspended from the structure of the bridge to provide shelter. Additionally, in the debris, Pouliot said officials found cans of camping fuel.

“The smoke was pretty intense,” he said.

Pouliot said upon arrival, there was a visible fire, with the fire actually emitting from the expansion joints on the bridge. As a result, the fire was visible from the road surface, as flames were large to reach through the expansion joints.

Some electrical components were damaged from the lighting along the bridge. Pouliot said an engineer will determine if there is any additional structural damage to the steel of the bridge. He said at this point, officials with public works are trying to determine the scope of the damage.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.