20220521-LOC-Fire Filer

Firefighters with the Keene Fire Department use water on damaged sections of 193 Elm St. in Keene Thursday morning after a two-alarm fire displaced residents.

The fire that left an apartment building at 193 Elm St. uninhabitable began with an explosion, Keene’s fire chief said in a news release Friday evening.

Chief Donald Farquhar said in the release the department arrived at the scene of the blaze, which engulfed a side porch and the first and second floors of the 3,283 square-foot residence, in the early hours of Thursday morning.

No one was injured in the fire — but two cats died, according to the release, which said fire crews arrived on scene at 4:01 a.m. Farquhar told The Sentinel the day of the fire that seven residents — two adults and five children — of one of the building’s three apartments were outside when crews arrived while residents of the other two apartments were not home at the time of the fire. However, the release clarifies that a total of three adults and five children were displaced as a result of the fire.

“There was a very consistent report from all the neighbors that the first indication of a problem was they heard a big bang and that was followed by a rapidly progressing fire,” Farquhar said in a phone interview Friday. “It was very well advanced by the time we got there.”

The department does not believe the fire to be suspicious but has not yet determined a source, the fire chief said.

Firefighters “rapidly extinguished the exterior porch” before entering the home, getting the fire under control in 44 minutes, according to Friday’s news release. The release estimated damages to amount to as much as $250,000.

The porch was cluttered with a lot of materials, including gas cans, that will take time for the department, with the help of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, to investigate, according to the fire chief.

“The absence of a known cause is making us dig a little deeper,” Farquhar said.

The fire chief said the residents of all of the destroyed apartments found shelter through family, friends or with the aid of the American Red Cross.

The decision of whether to rebuild the multifamily-building or tear it down will likely fall to the insurance company, Farquhar said. Although at the fire scene, he said he did not believe the structure to be a total loss, Friday’s release describes it as uninhabitable.

Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to contact Fire Investigator Anthony Booth at Anthony.booth@dos.nh.gov or the Office of the State Fire Marshal at 603-223-4289, the release states.

Ryan Spencer can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1412, or rspencer@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @rspencerKS

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