Family adjusts after fire damages house

NASHUA – Technically, Steve and Jennifer Dahl’s apartment didn’t burn down, but these parents and their three young girls have been living with the effects of fire all the same.

The flames from a fire at 10 Blossom St. scorched the side of their building, melting the vinyl siding and blackening the wood underneath. Windows shattered from the heat of the flames. The kitchen was covered in soot and ash and everything reeked of smoke, they said.

The fire upset their lives almost as if it had been in their building, they said.

But unlike the building next door, the Dahl’s apartment was deemed habitable, which meant Red Cross officials who were on the scene to help the residents of 10 Blossom St., couldn’t help the Dahls, the couple said.

“There’s physical damage, but a lot of emotional (damage) too,” said Jennifer Dahl, who works as a newspaper courier.

Jennifer was cooking dinner around 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19, when a three-alarm fire broke out next door at 10 Blossom St., which sits a few feet from the Dahl’s apartment. The back of 10 Blossom was heavily damaged, making the building uninhabitable, according to Fire Chief Michael O’Brien.

Before she even realized there was a fire next door, Jennifer Dahl said, a man burst through her front door, yelling in Spanish about a fire.

Jennifer Dahl managed to move the family’s new minivan from the parking lot behind her building and then the family watched as the flames were blown toward their home, windows breaking from the heat and firefighters going in and out of their apartment with hoses.

All of it was upsetting to the couple’s three daughters, ages 11, 3 and 1, Steve Dahl said. They’re still scared when people come to the door, he said.

“They’ve had nightmares over it,” he said. “These kids were completely traumatized from this. All we want is a place to live and be happy and take care of our kids.”

“It’s been a living nightmare ever since,” Jennifer Dahl said.

The Dahls have since moved to a new apartment in Nashua following the fire and an ongoing dispute with their landlord, Gauthier Realty.

In the week following the fire, the couple said it spent most of its time, and close to $1,000, cleaning. Steve Dahl had to clean some of the charred debris from the backyard. The window in the kitchen was covered over with a large piece of plywood.

An employee of Gauthier Realty, who declined to give her last name, said the boarded-up window was going to be covered over with siding and that there was little smoke in the building.

The work was somewhat delayed, she said, because the company had to wait for an insurance adjustor to appraise the damage.

Jennifer and Steve Dahl said they left because of the damage to the apartment, not knowing when it would be repaired, and the trauma to the children. Before they moved, the Dahls had covered the windows in the living room so the girls didn’t have to look at the house next door.

“The trauma of the whole thing, nobody in the family wants to live here,” Jennifer said before the family moved. “We just need to get our children out of there. We can’t live like this.”