Fire Fwp

A Laconia firefighter enters one of the apartments most heavily damaged in a five-alarm fire early Tuesday morning. Investigators say the fire is of suspicious origin, and police now say theere are three persons of interest they want to interview in the case. (Michael Mortensen/Laconia Daily Sun)

LACONIA — Police Matt Canfield said Thursday that his department is now looking at three individuals as "persons of interest" in the five-alarm fire that either destroyed or heavily damaged eight apartments in a building on Dyer St. early Tuesday morning.

“We are continuing to do our investigation and there are three people of interest and we are continuing to do interviews,” Canfield said. The three people of interest were expected to be interviewed either later Thursday or sometime today, he explained.

Asked to explain the difference between a person of interest and a suspect, Canfield said, “A person of interest is someone who has a connection to the event but we need to delve into their involvement more to see if there is probable cause” of criminal wrongdoing.

On Wednesday the chief said he hoped that an arrest might be forthcoming in the case by the end of the week. But Thursday he said that it might take more time before police would be ready to make an arrest.

“We are making headway and the detectives are working tirelessly on this case,” Canfield said.

Between 16 and 18 people, including four children, were forced to flee the eight-unit apartment building in the wee hours of the morning Tuesday, escaping the rapidly-spreading fire with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Debra Paquette, who lived in one of the apartments, said she was still up after midnight and heard “noises like firecrackers. I wondered who would be up at this hour setting off firecrackers,” she said Thursday. Minutes after hearing the noise she said she heard someone pounding furiously on her door telling her to get out of the building.

Six of the eight apartments received severe to moderate fire damage. One unit suffered minor fire damage, while another had just smoke damage, according to Fire Chief Kirk Beattie.

The Red Cross was providing assistance to 15 people in the immediate aftermath of the fire.

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