NEW HAMPTON — Local police, New Hampton Fire Department officials and the N.H. Fire Marshal's Office are working to determine the cause of a fire that was reported at 2:27 a.m. Saturday that gutted the first floor of a home at 55 Main Street .
Police are also looking for a link between the New Hampton fire and a Hill assault that occurred about two hours before the blaze.
The blaze, which Fire Chief Mike Drake said nearly destroyed an old post-and beam home, was one of the strangest fire scenes the veteran chief said he ever worked.
"This is the first time I've turned the corner from (Route) 104 and found six state and local police cruisers on Main Street with officers running around with assault weapons," he said.
Drake said he first thought he was responding to a methamphetamine lab explosion but later learned that police had been alerted to check the home for Carl Grace, a resident of 55 Main Street who had allegedly assaulted the female homeowner a few hours earlier at a home in Hill.
Drake said firefighters were delayed by police in reaching the fire because he and the State Trooper in charge wanted to make sure there was no external danger to firefighters.
He said Bristol firefighters were the first to gain access to the property and by that time the fire had shattered the living room window and was burning the front porch. It took firefighter 30 to 40 minutes to get the 2-alarm blaze under control.
Drake said he understood that earlier in the evening New Hampton Police had received a call from N.H. State Troopers in Hill that there was the possibility of something happening at the home. Drake said he learned that an officer had driven by the Main Street home, had seen nothing and had gone to refuel at the local gas pumps.
He said not a lot of time had passed before the fire department was called to the building fire at 2:27 a.m.
According to affidavits obtained from the 6th Circuit Court, Franklin Division, at 11:30 p.m. Friday, State and Hill Police responded to a report of an assault and a burglary at 662 Borough Road in Hill.
State Police affidavits said Carl Grace, 48, of 55 Main St. in New Hampton entered the Hill home through an unlocked door and found his ex-girlfriend, who owns the home on Main Street in New Hampton, in bed with the owner of the Hill home.
An alleged fight ensued between Grace and the two people in the bed. Police said Grace jumped on top of the male victim and began to "pummel" him with his hands. The female said she tried to grab Grace's hair and pull him off but was unsuccessful. She said she grabbed a nearby fire extinguisher and started to hit Grace. At one point, said police, she missed Grace and hit the other man.
She dropped the fire extinguisher and Grace allegedly picked it up and began swinging at the male victim. The female victim tried to cover her new boyfriend with her body and Grace allegedly hit her four or five times before he ran out of the building.
Police said the Hill homeowner grabbed a shotgun and fired one round in the air as Grace was getting into his silver Ford pickup. Both told police Grace threatened to go home to get a gun, and return and kill both of them. He said he'd be back in 20 minutes.
Police said the female victim had visible bruising on her right arm, red abrasions on her right calf and a bruise and bump on the right side of her head.
Police said she had broken up with Grace about week before Friday's alleged assault but Grace still lived with her in her New Hampton home.
Grace was arrested without incident at 12:41 on April 4 at a home in Danbury.
Grace appeared in court yesterday by video to face charges stemming from the Hill assault. He is charged with two counts of Class A misdemeanor criminal threatening – one each for allegedly saying he would kill both victims – and one count of domestic violence criminal threatening for threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend.
Grace is also charged with one count of simple assault for striking the male owner of the Hill home, two felony counts of domestic violence second-degree assault for striking his former girlfriend with a deadly weapon (the fire extinguisher) and one felony count of burglary.
He was ordered held in the Merrimack County House of Corrections on $15,000 cash only bail.
New Hampton Police Chief George Huckins said yesterday the state police have turned the investigation into the fire at 55 Main Street to local police and fire departments with the N.H. Fire Marshal assisting.
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