EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 21, 2012

Londonderry child dies in mobile home fire

Unattended kitchen stove blamed for blaze

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — A child died after fire engulfed a home at the Whispering Pines Mobile Home Park yesterday afternoon.

Fire chief Kevin MacCaffrie said the fire was caused by food which was left cooking unattended on the stove.

The Londonderry Fire Department received a call shortly before 1 p.m. that smoke and flames were erupting from a mobile home at 17 Norwich Place.

When Derry firefighters arrived, the first on the scene, they were told someone was still inside.

Firefighters used hand lines and entered the building, where they removed the victim. An ambulance was seen leaving the trailer park around 1:15 p.m.

Max Schultz, the district chief for the state fire marshal’s office, said the identity, age and gender of the victim would not be revealed until an autopsy is complete and the victim’s family has been notified. MacCaffrie said he expected the autopsy to be completed by tomorrow.

Fire officials would not confirm whether the child died in the house or if he or she was pronounced dead at the hospital. The victim’s mother was taken to Parkland Medical Center with “undisclosed injuries,” MacCaffrie said, but her condition was unknown.

McCaffrie said the mother lived with multiple children in the home, but he didn’t know how many.

The Derry Fire Department was first at the scene and Londonderry firefighters arrived shortly after.

Mutual aid was called in. Firefighters and equipment came from Auburn, Chester, Bedford and Litchfield joined Londonderry and Derry at the scene. Salem, Manchester and Hooksett departments provided station coverage

MacCaffrie said the fire was knocked down within 15 minutes of their arrival.

The mobile home was still standing, but there was significant smoke, fire and water damage. Many of the windows of the home were knocked out. Toys and other items were scattered on the lawn in front of the house.

MacCaffrie said there were many items piled near the stove, which caused the fire to spread quickly. The home’s small size was a factor, too, he said.

“As most confined units can, the fire built up very quickly,” Schultz said.

Neighbors gathered outside their homes, some sobbing as firefighters battled the blaze.

One woman was holding a teddy bear, which she said she intended to give to the family.

No neighbors interviewed knew the family, but many said they would often see children playing outside during the day.

Police were interviewing neighbors in front of their houses and setting up barriers so no one would approach the house.

Firefighters removed furniture and other items from the house. Smoke continued to roll out the back of the home more than an hour after the fire was put out. Large black scorch marks were visible on the outside of the house. A crib could also be seen through the window closest to where the smoke was coming out.

Michelle Flynn lives diagonally across from the home. She said she heard some type of explosion and ran outside.

“There was a loud bang and then I just started smelling smoke in my house,” Flynn said. “I ran outside and the whole trailer park seemed to be just filled with smoke. Just seconds after that, I heard all the sirens approaching.”

Flynn said she would often see children playing outside the home, but did not know who they were.

“It’s devastating,” Flynn said. “There are so many children on this strip; I just hope it wasn’t one of them.”

George Simard, one of the owners of Whispering Pines, was in his office down the street at the time. He said he didn’t hear any explosion, but looked to see what was going on when he heard the sirens.

“I thought at first it was just an average ambulance call,” Simard said. “But then I saw smoke billowing from the rear bedroom.”

Simard said the house was a single family unit, but he did not know the family who lived there.

Whispering Pines has 270 mobile homes, all closely packed together. The park is located on the town line between Londonderry and Derry.

“It’s just awful, especially with all the tragedy we’ve seen lately and now we’ve got to put up with this,” Simard said. “It’s only five days before Christmas and this happens.”