'I lost everything': Rochester man devastated by apartment fire, death of cats

·3 min read

ROCHESTER — When Robert Skinner left his second-floor apartment at 6 a.m. Thursday, he had no idea it was the last time he'd see it or his beloved pets.

He was working a shift at Chipotle Mexican Grill, when his phone started ringing around 1 p.m. Thursday. It was a call from his downstairs neighbor, which was out of the ordinary. He checked his phone for a view from the surveillance video camera he had positioned in his apartment window overlooking the street. It turned out the call was to warn him his 2 Central Ave. apartment was engulfed in flames.

"I saw a fire truck on the street and then the feed cut out," Skinner said. "I listened to my voicemail and I hear, 'You're apartment's on fire.' I just couldn't believe it, I'm thinking, 'What the hell happened? I have to get over there.' I just never thought something like this would happen."

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A fire breaks out in a four-unit apartment building at 2 Central Ave. in Rochester Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.
A fire breaks out in a four-unit apartment building at 2 Central Ave. in Rochester Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.

Skinner said he was in shock when he arrived and looked up at his apartment. He ran to the front of the house and cut through a back alley to get another view from the street. Fire trucks lined the two adjacent streets of Central Avenue and Portland Street and crews were still on the scene starting to wrap up hoses and investigate Thursday afternoon. As he was interviewed by firefighters, he asked about his two cats and learned they had both died.

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"I'm devastated I lost my cats," Skinner said. "I've had one guy for about 20 years and one that was born in this apartment. I haven't been inside yet, but it's just, my whole life was in there, you know? I lost everything. I don't know what I'm going to do now, where I'm going to go, how I'm going to be able to afford my car payment and work."

Firefighters respond to a blaze in a four-unit apartment building at 2 Central Ave. in Rochester Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.
Firefighters respond to a blaze in a four-unit apartment building at 2 Central Ave. in Rochester Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.

Interim Rochester Fire Chief Perry Plummer said the fire was contained to one-third of the building, which has four rental units. He said the cause of the fire was under investigation.

"When we arrived on scene, there was fire showing on the second floor," Plummer said. "The fire was contained to the second floor, the crews did an excellent job knocking the fire down upon arrival. Due to the size of the building, we requested backup from other departments."

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Patty Benner lives in the building, but besides smoke damage, her apartment was not affected by the fire. She stood outside with other tenants and neighbors as they watched firefighters respond and waited for information.

"A neighbor knocked on my door, telling me to get out because the building was on fire," Benner said. "I couldn't think, I grabbed my cat and my purse and I ran outside. It's unbelievable."

This article originally appeared on Fosters Daily Democrat: Rochester NH fire: Central Ave. apartment resident loses everything

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