Retailers hit with rash of fires

Area fire and police officials are investigating a rash of small fires that appear to have been set in several different department stores.

The most recent of the fires happened Wednesday in Nashua when a small fire was discovered burning in the Sears department store at the Pheasant Lane Mall then another several hours later at the nearby Home Depot.

No one was hurt in both incidents and the fires extinguished before major damage could occur.

Firefighters responded to the Sears store at around 10:13 a.m. after an alarm and a phone call about a fire in the building.

The fire was on the first floor, near the mall entrance, by towels and bedding. By the time firefighters arrived, two of the building’s sprinklers hadFire Chief Robert Burnham said.

After dousing the remains of the fire, firefighters set up fans to disperse the smoke in the building.

Sears was evacuated and closed to customers. At the mall entrance, yellow caution tape was spread in front of the entrance and a mall security guard informed customers that the store was closed.

When contacted later by phone, a store employee refused to comment on the fire but said most of the store was open and that the ground floor would be reopening in the afternoon.

The damage included water damage to the linens and towels in the area near the fire, Burnham said.

Fire crews were again summoned to area at around 5:45 p.m. after receiving a report of a small fire at the Home Depot at 288 Daniel Webster Highway.

The fire was found burning in an aisle in the store and was extinguished when fire crews arrived, Deputy Fire Chief Dan Cronin said.

The store was not evacuated or closed as a result of the fire, fire officials said.

Cronin would not say exactly where or how the fire appeared to have been started, only that it was considered “very suspicious.”

Cronin also would not say who discovered the fire or how it was extinguished because the investigation into the fire.

Officials from the Nashua fire marshal’s office are investigating the fire in tandem with Nashua police, he said.

A manager at the store refused comment about the incident.

There have been other fires at big retail stores in the area recently.

Two small fires occurred last week in Hudson’s Wal-Mart, both of which appeared to have been set, Hudson Deputy Fire Chief Charles Chalk said.

Chalk declined to give detailed information about the fires, citing the ongoing investigation, but said both involved merchandise that apparently was set on fire.

“In both cases, the fires were very small fires that did not do any damage, nor did it cause the fire alarms to activate,” Chalk said.

The first fire was reported at about 5:35 p.m. Oct. 25, but it had fizzled out on its own, and the store wasn’t evacuated, Chalk said.

The next morning, at about 11:57 a.m., another small fire broke out, and the store was evacuated when someone pulled the fire alarm, Chalk said.

“We’re still looking into the cause of those fires. They are of a suspicious nature,” Chalk said.

Another small fire was discovered burning at Home Depot in Merrimack on Oct. 25.

Customers and employees using portable fire extinguishers almost had the fire out by the time firefighters arrived. Fire officials and police said the fire was considered suspicious and was being investigated.

Chalk said he compared notes with Merrimack fire officials, but did not see any connection between the Wal-Mart and Home Depot fires. Investigators will continue to coordinate and share information on all three cases, he said.

“There’s no established connection between the fires,” but it’s worth looking at, Chalk said.

People who feel compelled to set fires generally develop identifiable habits and patterns, Chalk said.

The Home Depot and Wal-Mart fires didn’t seem similar, he said.

“In my opinion, that did not seem to be related,” Chalk said. “It did not match up in what I would consider to be a pattern.”