As she awoke to flames on her bed, Sandra E. Walker tried smothering the fire with her hands before running to her bathroom and filling a coffee pot with water.
But as she returned to douse the blaze, as she would later describe to police, the fire had spread across the bed and the area around it.
Realizing she’d be unable to extinguish the fire, Walker said she ran out of her second-floor apartment, banging on the walls to wake up residents in other apartments in the High Street building.
Steve Hooper/Keene Sentinel
A family of four across the hall — Carl R. Hina, his wife of only three weeks, Lori M. Hina, their 4-month-old daughter, Lillian, and Carl’s 12-year-old daughter, Sara Jean — awoke to the commotion and dressed. But they wouldn’t make it out alive.
At 2:25 a.m., dispatchers from Southwestern N.H. District Fire Mutual Aid in Keene sent fire trucks to the building, located only a few blocks from the fire station. The first truck arrived four minutes later, dispatch records showed.
Firefighters searched the building for survivors, but never reached the Hinas as they navigated through a building quickly filling with an inky haze that cut visibility to zero, fire officials would say.
The family would later be found in a back room in the apartment, killed by smoke inhalation, according to a medical examiner. Cuts found on Carl Hina’s hands indicated they may have tried to escape by breaking a window, officials told The Sentinel in the days following the Jan. 14, 1989, fire. Continue reading