Fire Ravages Beach Hotel

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By Paul Wolterbeek,

Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 12, 1990

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- An unattended cooking stove is thought to have started the fire that ravaged the Beacon Hotel on Hampton Beach Friday night, escalating to three alarms and a request for assistance from seven other town fire departments.

Local firefighting crews were first called to the 105 Ocean Boulevard motel at about 10:45 p.m. and the second and third alarms were soon sounded after that at two minute intervals.

Despite a constant rain the fire drew spectators numbering "in the thousands" to watch as companies battled the blaze, according to a statement issued by the fire department.

There were 16 occupants safely evacuated from the building, according to the release, but four of the police officers who were among the first on the scene were later transported to two hospitals to be treated for smoke inhalation. Sgt. Robert Towler was taken to the Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, and Kenneth Hafen, Lynn Charleston and James Patton were taken to Exeter Hospital.

All were treated and released, according to the fire department.

"There were about four or five police who ran up the back stairs trying to make sure everybody was out, and got a heavy dose of hot smoke," said Fire Chief William Sullivan. "The rest were injured from standing out front in the thick, pungent smoke. Just standing outside the building a lot of us were feeling sick to our stomach from the smoke."

The blaze was under control soon after midnight, but fire department crews remained on the scene until about 4 a.m. No information was available about where the occupants stayed.

Investigators believe an unattended electric cooking stove in a second floor kitchen was responsible for the fire, according to Sullivan. The fire department statement said occupants of the motel saw smoke and flames coming from the stove but failed in an unsuccessful attempt to suppress the fire.

The release further stated that fire investigators "found one burner turned on high and signs of cooking" and that the cause of the blaze remains under Fire Prevention Bureau investigation.

Assisting Hampton firefighters at the scene and with coverage of the two fire stations were crews from North Hampton, Hampton Falls, Seabrook, Exeter, Newburyport, Salisbury and Portsmouth. The Amesbury Mass., Civil Defense Department lighting truck and Stratham MASK unit also responded to the scene.

Information provided by the Fire Department shows that the building has been owned by the Beacon Hotel Associates Inc., for about a year and was recently renovated.

The first floor houses a shop, while the top two floors contain 14 rooms, of which 12 were occupied when the fire broke out. The fire department release described the top two floors as residential rooming house.

Sullivan said the fire department was delayed in responding to the fire for up to 15 minutes because people in the building tried to fight the blaze themselves and had not called in firefighters.

"It looks like the occupant might have fooled around and fought the fire themselves for some time before the Fire Department was called, said Sullivan.

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