Fire on porch guts home in Merrimack

MERRIMACK – A family is homeless, but a mother and son safe following a two-alarm fire early Monday night.

Fire crews responded to the large two-story south Merrimack home at 14 Brek Drive shortly after 6:30 p.m. when the homeowner called 911 to report a fire in the house.

Firefighters from Engine 2 on Naticook Road arrived to the home within minutes of the call and immediately began efforts to contain the flames that were engulfing the left rear portion of the home, Merrimack Fire Chief Bill Pepler said.

Deputy Fire Chief Michael Currier arrived to the fire seconds later and due to the quicklyprogressing nature of the fire, called a second alarm.

A Nashua engine and an Amherst engine as well as all five Merrimack engines plus a ladder truck and an ambulance responded to the fire, which was called under control at 7:11 p.m.

No firefighters were injured in the rescue effort and the family’s two cats that were inside the home are believed to have escaped. As some of the exhausted firefighters took a few minutes in the street, others with fresh oxygen tanks took their place and headed into the home.

The home’s owner, Sharon Ripkin, stood nearby and watched as the crews worked.

Ripkin said she had just gotten off the sofa to make dinner when she walked by the French doors leading to the home’s newly built three-season porch and saw the blaze.

“All I could see was flames,” Ripkin said, her voice still shaky.

Ripkin’s husband, Paul, was not home but their 8-year-old son, Mitchell, was sitting in a nearby living room watching television, she said.

“I just said, ‘Mitchell there is a fire. Leave the house now,’ ” said Ripkin, who also said she told her son before running to get a fire extinguisher and a portable phone.

As Ripkin’s son ran to neighbor’s home, she grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran back to the room.

By that time, the fire was too large and she ran outside with the family dog, Sam, and called 911.

As she was leaving the home, Ripkin said she heard what sounded like the glass in the doors exploding.

The fire gutted a three-season porch at the rear of the seven- or eight-room home and caused major fire and heat damage to all of the rear rooms on both levels, Deputy Fire Chief Frank Fraitzl said.

The rest of the home sustained extensive smoke and water damage, and is considered uninhabitable, he said.

Paul Ripkin, 39, said he was traveling home from his job as a software engineer when his wife called him and told him about the fire.

Ripkin said earlier in the day, work crews had installed a hot tub in the deck in the area where the fire appeared to have started.

He said his insurance company had offered to put the family up in a hotel, but that for the night they would be staying with neighbors.

Merrimack fire officials are investigating the cause of the fire.