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Encampment Fire Under 293 Bridge Closes Roads. Manchester Points Blame At State

New Hampshire State Police reported seeing thick black smoke billowing from under a bridge on 293 North in Manchester during the Wednesday morning commute.

Manchester Fire was dispatched to Frontage Road at 6:50 a.m. to respond to the fire in a known homeless encampment under the bridge. When firefighters arrived they called for additional apparatus due to the size of the fire which was quickly spreading with the wind.

State Police temporarily closed 293 North due to the thick smoke, and firefighters knocked down the bulk of the fire. Crews hooked up to fire hydrants in the area to establish an additional water supply.

Once the fire was knocked down responders rummaged through the debris to be assured no one was in the encampment at the time of the intense fire. Several items including propane tanks, wood, and other building materials were located but no people.

NH DOT sent personnel to the scene to inspect the bridge which was directly above the most intense part of the fire. Manchester Police closed Frontage Road while crews continued to work on the fire.

A large homeless encampment had formerly been located behind Walmart near the rail trail and under the Cracker Barrel billboard, and it was removed earlier this year. Some of the people from that encampment set up a new small encampment under the bridge which is state-owned property.

A press release distributed after the fire stated "The City of Manchester reported this encampment to the State of New Hampshire on September 28th. The State of New Hampshire denied responsibility over this property until Monday, December 12th. The State Department of Transportation and State Police notified the individuals living under the overpass on Tuesday, December 13th that they needed to vacate the property by Thursday, December 15th.”

Manchester Fire Chief Ryan Cashin said that Manchester Fire Department Squad 1 was on the scene this week to provide outreach services and all services were denied by the individuals living at that location.

Today’s fire is being investigated by the Manchester Fire Marshal’s Office, and the NH DOT will continue with the bridge inspection.

Manchester continues to see a growing population of homeless people across the city. Many of the encampments have been located in wooded areas out of the view of the public, but continue to be dangerous due to the flammable items used for people to keep warm.

Several incidents including death in Manchester homeless encampments have occurred over the last two years.

Read about previous incidents:

Manchester has also had three homicides connected to homeless individuals who were living at Manchester encampments.

Read about previous incidents:

©Jeffrey Hastings


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