Fire Destroys Route 1 motel

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Fire Destroys Route 1 motel

By Paul Wolterbeek

Hampton Union, Friday, May 11, 1990

[The following articles are courtesy of the Hampton Union]
The Town & Beach Motel before the fire.

HAMPTON -- The motel that helped earn its owner the Chamber of Commerce Faith in the Future Award two years ago was destroyed by a devastating blaze last night that nearly claimed several surrounding buildings.

The fire at the Town and Beach Motel at 663 Lafayette Road was reported at 9:17 p.m. and escalated to a four alarm blaze within 20 minutes. Departments from 12 neighboring towns responded to the scene and to offer coverage at the Ashworth Avenue and Winnacunnet Road fire stations.

The cause of the fire was unknown at press time.

Local police and State Police troopers controlled traffic, including closing Route 1 from the intersections with Anns Lane to High Street.

"Four alarms is as high as we go, and we called in more than that," said Fire Alarm Operator James D. Correll. He added that 12 towns assisted both at the scene and in giving coverage at the fire stations.

Correll said the blaze struck three buildings, including the front and rear hotel buildings and also an auto body shop nearby. He confirmed that "there were people evacuated," and that there were no reported injuries as of press time.

Police patrolman Robert Campbell said he was one of the first to arrive on the scene after a telephone caller reported the fire. Campbell said he and other police searched the occupied section of the building and were able to evacuate all the people known to be inside.

One neighbor who firefighters asked to leave her home said the blaze was in full force when she stepped out her door.

"I walked out that door and the whole thing was engulfed," said Vicki Johns, of 15 Hackett Lane. who was standing outside in the rain wearing a flannel nightgown, soaked leather jacket, and sneakers that she said a firefighter retrieved from the house.

Johns said her family was alerted to the blaze by a woman who knocked at the door.

"I was out here watching the whole thing scared to death."

Johns said she is sure that firefighters training their hoses on the home saved it from also burning when the wind shifted and drove the flames toward the small house.

"If it wasn't for them, it definitely would have gone." said Johns.

Others said that the firefighters contained the blaze from spreading to the Hampton Tire Company on Anns Lane, where one man said he observed tires stored outside began smoking from the heat of the nearby inferno.

Shifting wind presented a serious problem for firefighters to contend with. At about 10 p.m. fire crews working at the rear of the building scrambled to keep hoses trained on the Hackett Lane home as wind drove the flames toward the roof and outer walls. A resident of the home said there was extensive smoke damage from the smoke that blew in through open windows.

Shifting wind also carried a plume of glowing sparks and embers west and across Route 1 toward the Hampton Village Resort, and near the Handy Dan's convenience store and other businesses. A pall of black smoke rolling towards the Happy Town Convenience store, where two dozen people were milling around out of the rain watching the fire from under the roof shielding the gas pumps.

Cogger Street resident Cindy Willis, a past-chairman of the board of directors of the Hampton Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said she walked the short distance from her house to near the fire scene.

"From what I understand, it started out in the back," said Willis.

She said the powerful fire was tragic and that it destroyed a project that owner Norman Martinen has worked to improve since he bought it from his parents 2 1/2 years ago.

Martinen's investment in the Town and Beach Motel, as well as other business interests, earned him the Faith in the Future Award from the Hampton Beach Area Chamber of Commerce in 1988.

"He does so much for the community that people don't even know about," said Willis, adding that Martinen had constructed a sidewalk in front of the motel and along Route 1 as part of the project.

Martinen was reportedly inside the building at the time of the fire but was able to escape to safety.

Campbell said his initial impression was that the fire started near the pool area in the rear of the horseshoe-shaped motel.

Cause of Motel Fire Still Undetermined

By Paul Wolterbeek

Hampton Union, Tuesday, May 15, 1990

HAMPTON -- Fire investigators had no update yesterday on the blaze that destroyed the Town and Beach Motor Inn as well as a nearby auto body shop Thursday night.

The 663 Lafayette Road motel was destroyed by a four alarm fire that kept firefighters and equipment at the scene into the early hours of Friday morning. Fire inspectors remained there through the weekend trying to determine a cause.

"The cause is still under investigation, said Fire Chief William Sullivan in an interview Monday afternoon. "The Fire Prevention Bureau is working with the insurance investigators.

The only further information Sullivan was able to provide about the blaze was that investigators are certain it began in the motel and not the auto body shop.

But while the fire department issued no further comment on the investigation, the owner said he has ruled out an electrical problem as a possible cause of the blaze.

Newly installed wiring likely precludes an electrical problem as the cause of the fire, said owner Hank Martinen, but he remains unsure what else could be to blame. "Anything is speculation at this time, now, said Martinen in an interview yesterday afternoon. You think ten different things; everything goes through your head.

The fire broke out at 9:17 p.m. and was not brought under control until about 12:30 a.m. A total of 12 fire departments responded to the fire, which Sullivan said was tempered slightly by the steady and occasionally heavy rain.

We had more potential for damage with that fire than with any of the other fires we have had lately, said Sullivan. "We were lucky that it was raining.

The new additon was totally destroyed, and the only section Of the old building that may be salvagable is the side facing Anns Lane said Sullivan. There was also heavy damage to the neighboring Byrne's Chevrolet three-bay auto body shop.

Lesser damage was done to aluminum siding and shingles at a Hackett Lane residence behind the motel, and there was "everything from blistered paint to melted tail-lights caused to numerous cars and trucks near the motel and the auto body shop. The Hampton Tire [a few words missing from original here] as well as racks of tires outside and some vehicles on the premises -- also were reported damaged, Sullivan said.

Embers carried aloft by wind and hot drafts from the fire started small flare-ups on the roofs of buildings across Route 1, added the Fire Chief.

While there used to be a limousine service operated from the motel property, the owner said the service ended when the elegant cars were sold earlier this spring.

"I spent about an hour with (Fire Prevention Officer) Steve Bancewicz and the state fire marshal sifting through debris hoping to find anything, said Martinen yesterday. "There is absolutely nothing."

Martinen said the new part of the motel that burned was partially complete. He said Jaccuzzis and plumbing were installed but the addition lacked the sheetrock that would have partitianed off the 27 rooms.

The lack of sheetrock meant fire spread quickly through the open structure, Martinen said.

The hotelier wanted to commend firefighters who worked to save his business -- as well as other people who joined the effort. Martinen thanked Handy Dan's convenience store and the Shop'n'Save supermarket for providing food and refreshments to firefighters. He also thanked the Hampton Village Resort motel for offering lodging to patrons displaced from 14 rooms of the Town and Beach Motor Inn.

"The Villager (Motel on Route 1) took people in for nothing," said Martinen. "I think this town can be proud of it. I was; everybody was there and helped."

One problern now facing the motel management is to track the people who reserved rooms. Martinen said the computer that stored the most detailed information about reservation-holders was destroyed in the fire.

We are searching for whatever we have on scraps of paper that we can salvage, we're trying to find names and trying to notify people," said Martinen. "It's a hard task because most of the records were burned.

Records in the assessor's office list Martinen and his wife as the owners of the hotel. Their son Norman manages the business, and was living there until the night of the fire.

Tax records show the building was assessed as worth $1,489,200 and situated on a lot worth an assessed $334,100 after the recent valuation.

The motel contained 25 rooms spread over two floors and a total of 37,684 square feet.

Firefighters Get Another Call to Motel

By Paul Wolterbeek

Hampton Union, Tuesday, May 22, 1990

HAMPTON -- Firefighters were again called to the Town and Beach Motor Inn on Route 1 to douse a fire, but this time it was one far smaller than the four alarm blaze that leveled the new addition at the motel on May 10. "It was a pile of carpet underlay, that believe it or not, even with all the rain that we had, had smoldered for eight days," said Fire Chief William Sullivan yesterday.

Firefighters that responded to the scene Friday, quickly extinguished the smoky debris, and Sullivan said the incident was minor.

Fire Prevention Bureau investigators are still trying to determine a cause for the blaze at the motel that broke out near 9:30 p.m. and spread to a nearby auto body shop on the rainy May 10th night. That fire required help from 12 other towns, and heavily strained the overtime pay account of the local fire department.

Sullivan said the local inspectors are working with the New Hampshie State Fire Marshal's Office and also motel insurance company investigators in looking for a cause, but so far have been unable to isolate one.

We are pretty sure it started out in that new portion but other than that the investigation is still a matter of talking to people who may have seen it or were the first ones there," said Sullivan.

Motel Blaze No Accident

By Paul Wolterbeek

Hampton Union, Friday, June 8, 1990

HAMPTON -- Investigators have eliminated all logical accidental causes for the four-alarm blaze that gutted the new addition of the Town and Beach Motor Inn on Route 1 last month, according to the fire chief.

While Chief William Sullivan would not say whether investigators believe the destructive fire was set on purpose, he said in an interview yesterday that the most likely possible causes have been reviewed.

"We came to no final conclusion of the fire's origin, but we don't believe the fire was accidental," said Sullivan. "The investigators spent many, many hours up there, many hours interviewing people and it appears at this time that all accidental causes can be ruled out.

Sullivan said the total destruction of the new addition that was under contruction at the motel made it impossible to determine exactly where the fire began. Flames spread quickly through the open area after fire broke out shortly after 9 p.m. on May 10.

"You can sometimes follow the trail back to the point of origin, but not in this case," said Sullivan.

William Sanborn of the state fire marshal's office joined the investiation, as did "numerous" private investigators, according to the Sullivan. He added yesterday that the written report on the blaze was being prepared by the Fire Prevention Bureau, but was not complete.

In a press conference in October, 1989, Sullivan announced that investigators believed a series of suspicious fires during the previous months were the result of one or more arsonists. He was quick to clarify yesterday that investigators do not yet know that the Town and Beach Motor Inn fire was set, but simply that most causes have been ruled out.

Sullivan did say that no characteristics of the blaze have been found yet that link it to the fires that investigators believe were set.

"At this time no, we really haven't drawn any similarities between the fires of last year or of the winter and this one," Sullivan said.

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