3-car fire lights up Laconia night

LACONIA — Fire destroyed one car, damaged two others and an apartment house, at Cleveland Place in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Firefighters dispatched at 3:21 a.m. arrived to find the engine compartments of two cars — a 2011 Chevrolet Malibu and 2004 GMC Envoy, facing one another, on fire, with flames licking at a 1997 Ford Ranger pick-up truck parked nearby. The intensity of the fire and proximity of the building prompted Lieutenant Lisa Baldini to report a structure fire, which drew crews from the Weirs Beach Station as well as Gilford and Belmont.

An attack line was stretched to the vehicles and a firefighter entered the building to determine if the fire had spread.

Residents of the closely knit neighborhood stood clustered around a young woman who wept as she said that she had just bought the car from a local dealer. She said the car was not insured since she spent all of her money to buy it. "I don't know what I'm going to do," she said, wiping tears from her cheeks.

Witnesses said they heard a loud pop which was attributed by police to the right front tire exploding. Others said they were awoken by the sounds of police and fire responding to the blaze and many were standing outside wrapped in blankets to protect themselves from the cool morning air.

One woman mentioned that at around 10 p.m. a young person had been going around the neighborhood seeing if he or she could set off car alarms. She said she had no idea if the earlier incidents and the fire were related.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that the fire originated in the engine compartment of the Malibu and spread to the other vehicles. He described the Malibu as a total loss and said that the SUV and the truck were also damaged. In addition the heat from the fire damaged the vinyl siding of the building at 14 Cleveland Place.

Erickson said that the cause of the fire is "undetermined," but noted that the Malibu had not been driven since 5 p.m. on Tuesday. The Laconia Police Department has asked anyone with information about the fire to contact the police at 524-5252.