MANCHESTER — City police and fire investigators believe a one-alarm fire that engulfed the front door of an apartment building Wednesday morning was arson.
Lazaro Martinez-Sanchez, who lives on the first floor of 279 Silver St. with his wife, sister, and their four children, woke up to shovel his driveway about 4 a.m. then went back to bed before work. Five hours later when his wife woke him, the front porch was engulfed in flames.
“I smelled gasoline everywhere,” he said.
Martinez-Sanchez got his family out through the back door, called 911 and began to throw snow on the fire. The occupants of the second and third floors were also able to escape. No one was reportedly injured.
A neighbor across the street told Martinez-Sanchez that she saw a woman with an arm partially on fire standing outside the Silver Street house, he said.
And on Wednesday afternoon, the Manchester Police Department released a photograph of a woman in a dark, hooded coat carrying what appears to be a gasoline can on Silver Street.
The first call to 911 came in at 9:08 a.m. and the fire was extinguished in minutes, District Fire Chief Brendan Burns said. Burns confirmed that witnesses had reported seeing a woman pour a liquid on the front door and light it.
A dog trained in detection also indicated the presence of accelerants in several places at the front of the building Wednesday morning.
The occupants of the building were all displaced by the fire but had arranged for other housing, Burns said.
Christina Leach rushed to the 279 Silver St. address in tears after receiving a text message about the fire.
She feared for the lives of her mother and stepfather, who live on the second floor. Both were unharmed.
“I’m just glad that everybody’s OK,” she said. “It’s just scary when you get a call that your mother’s house is on fire.”
Shaking her head in disbelief, Leach said she couldn’t think of any reasons someone would want to hurt her family.
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