Arsons Leave Carroll County on Edge

Madison — June 28, 2011 — Intentionally set fires destroyed a home in Freedom and a barn in Eaton Monday morning, putting Carroll County residents on edge and prompting state officials to issue tips on how to discourage arson. The fires, called in after midnight, roused firefighters from at least 13 area departments.

In Eaton, most of the Freedom Fire Department was fighting the fire at Glines Hill Road when the call came in for a home fully ablaze on Watson Hill Road in Freedom, said Freedom Assistant Fire Chief Justin Brooks. That home belonged to Freedom selectman Scott Cunningham, Brooks said. The converted post-and-beam barn had been in the family for 100 years and was flattened in the fire, he said.

Both of the residences were second homes, Brooks said. The owners had been in the homes Sunday but left it that day.

Earlier this month, brush fires were intentionally set in the Ossipee pine barrens. Last week, a suspicious fire destroyed two post-and-beam-style barns in Madison, killing some livestock.

“A lot of people are concerned,” Brooks said. “One-hundred, 200-year-old homes are now in the cellar. We’ve had a rash of fires and people are worried.”

An investigation into Monday’s fires involved state fire marshal investigators, New Hampshire State Police and local authorities. The investigation ruled out natural and accidental causes, said State Fire Marshal William Degnan. He said the cause is incendiary.

“Arson is a serious crime,” Degnan said in a statement. “Intentionally set fires result in over 300 civilian deaths and over $700 million in direct property loss nationwide annually.”

The Eaton fire destroyed a barn and ell attached to a house and gutted the house, Brooks said. Eight departments, including the Freedom Fire Department, were called to the fire about 12:15 a.m. At 12:50 a.m., calls came in about a 2 1/2-story home fully engulfed by flames on Watson Hill Road in Freedom. Some calls came in from across Ossipee Lake, he said.

Brooks left the Eaton fire with a Freedom tanker and was joined by firefighters from five other departments at Watson Hill Road.

Water is always an issue for firefighers in rural areas. In Eaton, firefighters strung more than 2,000 feet of 4-inch line to draw water from Crystal Lake to fight the fire. In Freedom, they used tankers to shuttle water to the fire.

“We have a good mutual aid group,” Brooks said.

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