Pelham blaze requires 4 alarms

PELHAM – A four-alarm fire caused thousands of dollars in damage to an electronics manufacturing company Friday night.

The fire at QAC Incorporated at 60 Pulpit Rock Road was initially reported at about 7 p.m., when an off-duty employee discovered heavy smoke coming from the inside rear walls of the approximately 80,000-square-foot building.

Pelham police officers Matt Moore, Ken Owen, and police dog “Duke” responded to the business after the employee tripped the burglary alarm, Moore said.

Both officers and the dog went inside the building and found the man as he was exiting.

“He came running out of the smoke,” said Moore.

The employee was not hurt, he said.

Pelham fire crews then responded to the blaze to find heavy smoke coming from the eaves at the rear of the building, said Fire Chief E. David Fisher.

The fire went to a second alarm within three minutes of arrival of the first fire crews, then to the fourth alarm within the next 15 minutes.

Among other hazards, firefighters had to contend with several containers of highly flammable gases such as propane, oxygen, nitrogen and acetylene, Fisher said, which were all secured away from the fire, he said.

In all, fire crews from Pelham, Dracut, Mass., Windham, Hudson, Salem, Londonderry and Tyngsborough, Mass., covered fire stations and worked to put out the blaze that had begun traveling through the rear walls of the business, Fisher said.

An ambulance from Derry responded to the scene for stand-by duty.

Red Cross officials were also on hand to provide rehab services for the rotating crews of firefighters who worked for 25-30 minutes at a time pulling down walls in a 4,000-square-foot portion of the building where the fire had been retained.

At 9 p.m., about 25 firefighters were working the fire from inside the building, and several more were working on the roof of the building, making their way back and forth from Salem and Dracut ladder trucks.

Fisher guessed it would take another two hours before the job would be done.

“It’s a slow process of getting everything opened up,” he said.

At the time, Fisher could not say how the fire started.

“We won’t know until we can get in there,” he said.

Company president Dick Dyer stood by in the parking lot of the business and watched as fire officials worked to direct crews and order more manpower.

Dyer said he was summoned to the scene after the first alarm.

The company moved to the building from Lowell six years ago, he said.

Dyer said the off-duty employee who discovered the fire had initially gone to the empty business to retrieve some data for a company project.

“It’s kind of lucky actually,” Dyer said.

Stephanie Hooper can be reached at 594-6413 or