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N.H. Officer Lauded for Alerting Residents to Fire

MANCHESTER, N.H. - A city police officer's actions are being credited for helping save the lives of 30 people when he ran into a burning building on Barr Street.

Officer Ben Foster was on patrol around 2 a.m. Sunday when he saw flames on the three-story apartment building at the corner of Granite and Barr streets.

"He saw the fire and then radioed it in," Manchester Police Sgt. Kristen Taylor said. "He then helped get people out."

Along with Officer Dan Wood, Foster started going door to door inside the large building. Bishnu Gurung, 24, was sleeping when police officers started banging on her door and yelling for her to get out of the building.

"He was calling to 'Wake up,'" she said of the officer.

Gurung and her husband, Karna Gurung, 28, grabbed their 2-year-old daughter, Katrina, and headed out into the cold as the three-alarm fire burned through the roof.

District Fire Chief Michael Gamache said there were 20 adults and 10 children in the 5 Barr St. building when the fire started, all of them sleeping. The fire did not activate the building's smoke detectors.

"That's scary, especially with 30 people in the building," Gamache said.

The fire likely burned for about an hour before it was seen by Foster, Gamache said.

The blaze is believed to have started in an electrical fixture in an exterior porch. It worked its way through the porch roof and then into the walls of the building and up to the attic - without sending any smoke into the living area where the detectors were placed, he said.

"No smoke would have reached the living quarters," Gamache said.

Firefighters went through the 100-year-old building, rescuing people trapped inside. Six people were found in various parts of the building, Gamache said.

The fire could have easily been much worse, according to Gamache, as the apartment building is located in a densely populated area. Fire crews worked hard to contain the flames, he said.

"We evacuated the adjacent building," he said.

Many of the residents are staying with family and friends. The building suffered more than $250,000 in damage, Gamache said.

The Red Cross has offered assistance to all of the residents, Gamache said.

Taylor said any discussions about a commendation or award for Foster will be done by police internally in the coming weeks.

The fire remains under investigation, though Gamache has said it is not suspicious.

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