Torch may have caused building fire

MILFORD – A plumber’s torch likely started the two-alarm fire Thursday night that displaced about 80 people from the Heritage Estates apartment complex.

No one was injured in the blaze that left residents of the 26 apartments in Building 9 temporarily homeless.

Everyone found shelter with friends or relatives, or in hotels and other buildings at the complex, according to Ashley Pushkarewicz, emergency services director of the N.H. Gateway Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The Salvation Army and the Red Cross were on the scene Thursday night. The Red Cross set up an office at the apartment complex and then moved to the town hall auditorium where workers provided food, clothing, infant needs and mental-health counseling for displaced tenants.

The fire started in concealed wall space between two third-floor apartments, said Milford Fire Chief Frank Fraitz, who said it has been deemed an accident.

“We poked around and found where in the walls” the fire started, he said.

Around 4 p.m. Thursday a plumber had been working on pipes in one of the apartments, said the chief, which was an hour before the communications center received multiple calls of smoke coming from a wall in the building.

Most likely he was working with a torch, Fraitz said, and the tenants were very fortunate the fire didn’t start later at night when people were asleep.

The fire chief said he believes Building 9 is the only one in the complex not equipped with a sprinkler system.

“It could have been a lot worse,” he said. “There was a very high possibility of a fatality.”

Around 3 p.m. Friday, Linda Sinclair, a 13-year resident of the complex, was moving a television, a gallon of milk and other items from Building 9 to her new home in Building 1 with the help of her daughter and boyfriend.

She said she is grateful to firefighters who tried to cover up her possessions as best they could, but “I don’t know the condition of my bedroom set.”

A pet rat also was rescued by firefighters from the apartment where the fire started, according to a Milford Fire Department press release.

The building remains uninhabitable because of damage to electrical, plumbing and fire alarm systems, but “the building owner hopes to have the majority of these issues corrected over the weekend and be able to allow all but seven of the apartments to be reoccupied,” according to a press release.

The 104-unit complex is at 502 Nashua St., just to the east of Giorgio’s Restaurant.

Building owner Bill Morin could not be reached for comment.

Red Cross workers will be in the town hall auditorium Saturday from noon-4 p.m. Pushkarewicz said anyone who wants counseling outside of the temporary offices can call the Red Cross at 889-6664 for an appointment. The Red Cross will also try to make sure every tenant has a recovery plan for a new apartment if need be, she said.

“It can be very overwhelming,” she said. The organization also provides monetary help and information packets for fire victims.

Because of the unusual number of fires this month, the Red Cross needs donations, which can be sent to the NH Gateway Chapter at 28 Concord St., Nashua 03064 or made online at