07/31/2013

NH police station shooting range catches fire

The staff was evacuated without injury and continued working at a redundancy center nearby

By Andrea Bulfinch
Foster's Daily Democrat

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Officials are investigating a second-alarm fire at the Portsmouth police station that broke out in the indoor shooting range Tuesday night.

According to Fire Chief Steven Achilles, a fire alarm activation came in at about 7:48 p.m.

Upon arrival of what was then a working fire, firefighters located flames in the backstop of the firing range.

He said the fire was kept in check by the sprinkler system in the building, located on Junkins Avenue.

A second-alarm was struck at about 9 p.m. for mutual aid and station coverage.

Though the fire was contained to the shooting range, which is in proximity to officers' locker rooms, five individuals working in the dispatch center on the first floor were able to exit the building without injury, according to Police Capt. Frank Warchol.

He said those employees were relocated to the Redundancy Center on Peverly Hill Road.

"We haven't skipped a beat as far as that's concerned," he said, adding there was no interruption to incoming calls for the dispatch center during the entire incident.

This marked the second time that center has been used, the first being the ice storm in 2008.

"It just goes to show the importance of the redundant dispatch center," City Manager John Bohenko said.

Warchol said it was unknown whether anyone was using the range at the time the fire struck or when it had last been in use Tuesday.

Achilles said there was no fire damage outside of the range, though there was some smoke throughout the building. He said crews would be on scene to conduct what he described as extensive overhaul and to check for any smoke issues on other floors in the building.

He said fire officials will be working closely with police to investigate the actual origin of the fire.

A commercial cleaning company was en route to the station to continue cleanup overnight.

As far as Warchol knew, he said there was no damage to any equipment stored in the locker room area where off-duty officers would normally keep uniforms and firearms.

Fire departments from Rye, Dover, Kittery, Greenland assisted on scene while Hampton, North Hampton, Pease and Exeter Departments provided station coverage. An ambulance from the Newington Fire Department was also on scene.

Copyright 2013 the Foster's Daily Democrat

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