Sunday evening fire chases 12 from their Gilford Ave. apartments

LACONIA — Twelve people are homeless after a three-alarm fire ripped through the second floor of a century old home at the intersection of Gilford Avenue and Morrill Street Sunday evening. Two cats and a bird died in the blaze that was called in at 7:11 p.m.
The blaze began in the bedroom of Shyann Shaw who said one of her two cats knocked over a lamp. She said she heard the crash, went into the room and saw the fire.
She said she called 9-1-1 and they told her to get out and pull the alarm.
"We made sure everyone was out of the building," said the young woman who was struggling to catch her breath as she watched the flames pour from the attic eaves above her apartment. "Everything I own is in there."
Tom Walsh lives across the street at the corner of Highland Street and Gilford Avenue. He said he and his family were watching television when he saw a spark in the second floor window across the street.
"It was like watching a movie," Walsh said. "I heard glass crackling and saw the flames coming out of the corner of the second floor."
Walsh said the house had been renovated within the past year and Deputy Chief Deb Pendergast confirmed that yesterday. She said the building is owned by Ted Roy.
Pendergast said the initial challenge when firefighters arrived was the "amount of fire."
"Until the mutual aid come very few people have a lot of things to do," she said.
She said that luckily everyone was outside and "milling about" but she said firefighters "can't hang their hats on that" when it comes to an occupied burning building.
She said the initial team from Laconia Engine 2, Gilford Engine 2 and a Weirs engine were able to get water to the fire and were in the building doing a "down and dirty" search to make sure everyone was out.
She said the flames were spreading rapidly and Capt. Kirk Beattie who lives nearby and responded from home, took command and called all the firefighters out of the building. She also said Gilford Chief Steve Carrier, who also lives nearby, responded from home providing some much-needed early manpower.
Within minutes, she said mutual aid companies began arriving and firefighters were able to regroup and start beating back the fire.
"It was a good hour before forward progression stopped," she said.
The fire destroyed the Shaw's apartment but Pendergast said the building is likely salvageable. She said the older "stick built" houses used heavier timbers and were constructed more solidly that they are now.
"It's also safer to be going into one of those," she said.
Pendergast said the fire damage was held to the main part of the house while the ell sustained smoke and water damage. She said there was minimal smoke damage to the barn.
Chief Ken Erickson said the fire "flashed-over" twice — once on the second floor where it started and once in the attic.
"This was a very hot fire," he said, noting that it spread quickly throughout the house. He said the room where the blaze started and the adjoining rooms were completely gutted. "There's nothing left."
He said with buildings so well insulated and most furnishings made from plastics and other fibers, fires in a dry heated environment spread rapidly and burn hotter than wood.
Pendergast said the fire brought two control commanders from Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid as well as the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to help city police with traffic.
Firefighters were on the scene until 10:47 p.m.