Fire at NH oceanfront hotel spreads, engulfs block of 6-8 businesses, but no injuries reported

Friday, February 26, 2010

NH hotel fire spreads, engulfs block; no injuries

HAMPTON, N.H. — A fire that started in an oceanfront hotel spread to nearby buildings, engulfing an entire block of businesses, and could be seen from miles away, firefighters and a witness said.

The ferocious blaze started early Friday at the unoccupied three-story Surf Hotel in Hampton, a densely populated community along the Atlantic coast an hour’s drive north of Boston, fire Capt. David Lang said. The block of six to eight wood-frame buildings, including a games arcade and a restaurant, quickly caught fire, he said.

The weather at the time was rainy and windy, which helped to fan the flames, he said. The winds were so strong they blew a membrane covering off the hotel’s roof, he said.

The bad weather stretched the resources of the fire department, which had sent teams and equipment to several weather-related emergencies, such as fallen trees and transformer fires, before the hotel blaze was reported and had to scramble to respond, Lang said. Surrounding communities also were taxed and couldn’t send help right away. Firefighters in Massachusetts and Maine were called in.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Paul Sullivan, a retired police officer who lives in the center of town about 3 miles from the hotel, said he could see the fire from his front window.

“I saw a growing glow, getting brighter and brighter by the moment,” Sullivan said by telephone.

Hampton is home to Hampton Beach State Park, a popular summer destination. The Surf Hotel is on Ocean Boulevard, which is lined with hotels, condos, restaurants and gift shops. The strip is central to the region’s bustling summer economy and is a major draw for beach visitors but usually is quiet in the winter.

Most of the buildings along Ocean Boulevard are old and very close together, with no firestops in between.

Most of the businesses in the area, including the Surf Hotel, are seasonal, and it’s unlikely anybody would have been in there at this time of year, Sullivan said.

No cause of the fire had been identified.

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