Nashua, NH Fire, May 1930


$2,000,000 Estimated Loss as Fire Sweeps Southeast Part of City--Wind Keeps Conflagration From Business Area--Priests Heroes, Saving 600 Children

Nashua, N. H., May 4.--(AP)--More than 500 persons lost their homes in a conflagration which destroyed the southeastern section of Nashua this afternoon with a loss estimated by Fire Chief James E. Smith at $2,000,000. In addition to 125 houses, two churches and four large industrial plants were laid in ruins. Several smaller business establishments also were caught in the flames. A 40 mile-an-hour northwest gale spread the flames like a fan from the starting point, a Boston & Maine railroad wooden bridge which spans the Nashua river.

Business Section Spared.

The wind took the fire away from the principal business section, but all the thickly settled Crown Hill residential district fell a prey instead.

So fast did the fire spread that many of those who lost their homes lost also their personal belongings. There were several narrow escapes, but no human casualty except that five men were overcome by smoke.

Eleven Priests Are Heroes.

Father Isadore Janells and Father Ullsade Simoneau of the church and convent school of the Infant Jesus (French Roman Catholic) were heroes as the flames came licking toward the church. Six hundred children were sitting in the parochial hall watching a play, when someone came to the door and cried, "Fire!" Father Simoneau calmed the youngsters and led them all out safely. Ten minutes later the hall was a mass of fire. As the church also caught fire, Father Janelle ran in and out, carrying the sacred vessels. 'Then he collapsed from heart failure and was taken to St. Joseph's hospital, where he was expected to recover.

The wind blew the flames away from the business section, but they licked through the closely settled residential section at such a rate that in two hours approximately a square mile had been burned over. In one house on Harbor avenue the family succeeded in moving most of the furniture out on the street after the flames caught the roof, only to see the fire make a bonfire of chairs and sofas on the pavement.

Co. E of the National guard was called out to aid police and firemen, who were called from Manchester, Lowell and Lawrence, Mass., and several other places.

Starting in a wooden bridge across the Nashua river, the fire spread to the Nashua Building company lumber plant and from there to the thickly settled residential section.

Removing Furniture Futile

The flames swept with such rapidly through the houses that piles of furniture carried into the street became lines of bonfires between smoking ruins and still standing chimneys.

Spreading out in a fanlike shape from the bridge where the trouble started, the fire finally reached the extreme edge of the city and jumped into a glue grove, beyond which stood the Nashua County clubhouse.


Read more articles about the fire (below)