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Fire Destroys Hampton Beach Apartments, Soup Kitchen, Laundromat

HAMPTON, New Hampshire (CBS/AP) -- The Seawalk motel in Hampton Beach may be a total loss after flames ripped through the building, but the owner said Friday what's important is that everyone made out safely.

One woman was waiting for firefighters on the roof.

"She jumped off her deck onto the roof of the laundromat and then the fire department got her down from there," Bob Preston said.

Preston owns the building and was on scene within minutes. "All you saw was a big wall of fire," he explained.

Hampton Beach Fire
Damage left behind by a fire at Hampton Beach. (Image Credit: Lisa Gresci/WBZ-TV)

Firefighters started getting calls around 10 o'clock Thursday night. Hampton Fire Chief Jameson Ayotte said strong winds increased the fire's danger. Thick smoke was seen blowing out to sea.

"Initially there was so much fire we couldn't get inside," Lt. Sean Gannon said.

The building was also home to a laundromat, a soup kitchen and six apartment units, four of which were being rented.

"We assume people are always in the building, especially at the beach even if it's offseason, a lot of these places are occupied," said Gannon.

While the Seawalk was in freshly renovated for the summer season, Preston said the biggest loss to the community will be the soup kitchen that was downstairs. St. Vincent De Paul had been running their operation there since 2000.

"The soup kitchen has been here for maybe 15 years. A couple years ago, they fed 12,000 people over the course of the winter so that's a big loss," he said.

As for the Seawalk, it will be back.

"You know, it's just a building. We can always rebuild it. Hampton is kind of a special place. We will fix it up and we will rebuild it," said Preston.

Hampton Beach Fire
The fire destroyed a three-story building in Hampton Beach, April 5, 2018. (Image credit: Darin Pinette)

The fire is still under investigation. As of Friday, firefighters no longer believed that it originated in the laundromat. Instead, investigators are looking at the north side of the building.

Preston praised the firefighters, saying, "To watch them attacking the fire and at the same time trying to make sure all the people are okay it was really incredible the job they do."

The building to the left, and behind the Seawalk had only minor damage.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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