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May 13, 2015 5:02 PM

Portsmouth man fighting for his life after fire


PORTSMOUTH - A man was seriously burned and is in critical condition after a Tuesday night fire on Islington Street.

According to witnesses, when the 51-year-old man was removed from the home by fire personnel his hands and feet were clearly affected by the flames. Paramedics had to use a special IV in order to treat him, because his skin was so damaged.

Neighbors Heather Levin and Nate Vassill saw the fire erupt at approximately 7:20 p.m. Vassill called 9-1-1, and then ran across the road to try to warn the duplex's owner. Nobody was home on that side of the building.

Another neighbor, Bob DeCourcy, also ran out of his apartment and across the road to help. The two men tried to get into the side of the building where the fire's victim was laying on the floor.

"Bob opened the door and we could hear the guy actually sort of moaning, but not actually talking," Vassill said. "We were yelling, 'Can you walk? Can you hear our voices?' and the guy just kept moaning back."

Vassill said they tried to go in to pull the man out, but had to turn back once DeCourcy got the door open with a shovel.

"The second that it cracked open six inches, just intense heat and smoke came billowing out," Vassill said. "This wasn't like a garden hose or a fire extinguisher kind of fire. It was massive."

The fire destroyed the side of the duplex where the man lived. Dennis Cote, a retired fire chief who will be working to restore the property, said his crew will have to completely gut that apartment.

Portsmouth Deputy Fire Chief James Heinz said they are not releasing the name of the man, pending notification of family members. Heinz said he is still fighting for his life at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Heinz said he was impressed by the quick rescue by firefighters who arrived on the scene shortly after Vassill's call to 9-1-1.

Members of the fire department continued their investigation into the cause of the fire on Wednesday.


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