A Good Samaritan’s swift response saved a Londonderry woman who was asleep in her home when it caught fire last week.
Alan Lantz, the executive chef at Surf Restaurant in Nashua, was on his way to work when he noticed smoke coming out of a third-floor window of a white colonial at 77 High Range Road.
“I use all my senses to cook. When I smelled the smoke I knew something was wrong. That’s when I decided to stop. When I first looked, it looked like snow being blown around,” said Lantz, who ran around the house banging on doors and windows trying to alert anyone inside of the fire.
Lorraine Elwood, 86, was sleeping inside and unaware her home was on fire.
When she finally came to the door, Lantz ran inside and grabbed blankets, wrapping them around Elwood and helping her to safety outside.
Battalion Chief Jim Roger said Lantz was a crucial link in their response.
“The fire was progressing rapidly. The home was built in 1782. There are no fire stops built into the walls,” he said. “Another three minutes or so and the attic would have been totally consumed with fire. We were lucky this gentleman was passing by. If the timing had been different, there could have been a different outcome. He made a huge difference.”
The Fire Department received the call reporting the fire at 10:52 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6. The fire started in a second-floor bathroom when a light fan malfunctioned, causing an electrical fire.
The Fire Department had a quick response, with all three engines arriving at the home in just a few minutes. Crews immediately ran a hose through the front door up to the second floor and checked the home to make sure there wasn’t anyone else inside.
While firefighters were working to put out the flames, additional crews put down salvage covers to protect Elwood’s property from water damage, according to Roger.
“Our crews did a fantastic job. They didn’t miss a beat. It went like clockwork,” he said.
Because the home is located in a non-hydrant area, three additional fire tankers, which hold up to 3,000 gallons of water each, were called in from Litchfield, Windham and Pelham, as well as a fire engine from Hudson and an ambulance from Derry.
Lantz said while they were waiting for fire crews to arrive, a neighbor took Elwood into her home to get warm and said she was a little confused but unharmed.
“I hate to think what could have happened if I hadn’t driven by when I did,” he said. “Her family called me and thanked me. I don’t think I did anything special, I just did what I was supposed to do.”