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One dead after fire in Whitefield



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Lancaster firefighter Derik Crowell talks with Whitefield Chief Jay Watkins after crews arrived at 35 Bray Hill Road where a fatal fire claimed the life of Janet Beaton during the overnight hours on Dec. 30-31. (Photo by Nate Wert) (click for larger version)
January 06, 2010
WHITEFIELD A fast moving house fire claimed the life of an elderly Whitefield woman during the overnight hours on Dec. 30 and 31. Janet Beaton, 74, of 35 Bray Hill Road was home alone at the time of the fire, which was reported at 11:53 p.m., by a neighbor.

An autopsy conducted by the state found that Ms. Beaton died as a result of smoke inhalation.

Fire crews arrived at the single story home, which Whitefield Fire Chief Jay Watkins described as a mobile home with an addition, to find it was completely engulfed in flames just before midnight. The firefighters did not know if anyone was inside the structure, but Chief Watkins said that no interior search was possible due to the extent of the blaze.

The office of New Hampshire State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan was called in to investigate the cause of the fire. Fire Investigator Stacey Dubois said the cause of the deadly fire is still listed as undetermined and remains under investigation.

Chief Watkins explained that the residence was "pretty much gone when we got here." Ms. Beaton had two family members that resided with her, but both were out of town at the time, Chief Watkins said.

Crews from Dalton, Lancaster, Jefferson and Twin Mountain assisted Whitefield at the scene. Bethlehem and Littleton fire departments provided coverage as well. "Everything went really well," Chief Watkins said of the firefighting efforts and mutual aid support. "I would say under an hour we had the fire knocked down," he explained. The responding departments stayed on scene until about 4 a.m., but Whitefield firefighters were back the next day alongside fire investigators. Chief Watkins said it appears that the fire may have started on the left side of the house near a bedroom.

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