By James Baker
Foster's Daily Democrat Staff Writer
HAMPTON — As firefighters battled a five-alarm blaze that virtually destroyed three beachfront businesses Wednesday, city officials and property owners were already contemplating the aftermath.
"This was a frightening scene here today, but it remains to be seen just how badly this is going to affect our tourism," said Glen French, executive director of the Hampton Chamber of Commerce.
"It’s a terrible shame. The summer was off to a great start before this happened," he said.
Town Manager James Barrington shared French’s sentiments but was hopeful the fire would only create a temporary setback to Hampton Beach’s tourist trade.
"Despite what’s happened today, you can look up and down the block and see that other businesses are moving along and thriving. We’re going to get over this hurdle. There’s a lot of civic pride in this community, and there are a lot of people who will pitch in to help.
"This is a terrible misfortune, but we’re going to rebound just fine," he said.
The fire erupted at 2:40 p.m. at the Old Salt Eating and Drinking Place and quickly spread to two adjacent buildings. More than 200 firefighters from 23 communities responded to the blaze, considered one of the worst in the past 25 years at Hampton Beach. Fire officials are investigating the cause of the fire, which at this time is not considered suspicious.
Springfield Motor Lodge owner Norman Bolyea tried to maintain an optimistic outlook as he watched firefighters attempt to extinguish the flames leaping from the roof of his establishment.
"With this much smoke damage, I don’t feel very encouraged about the chances of reopening, said Bolyea, who just recently poured $30,000 into renovations, including rewiring and installing new railings and smoke alarms.
Paul Glacalon, owner of Haven’s Cafe, said it was hard to believe what happened.
"The weather was outstanding, and business was just going great. And now this. I might feel differently later, but right now it seems as though I’ve lost everything. I feel badly, not only for myself but everyone involved," he said.