Body recovered at fire scene in Portsmouth

A fire destroyed three homes on Narragansett Boulevard in Portsmouth, early Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. (WJAR)

The Portsmouth fire chief said a body was recovered at the scene of a fire that destroyed three houses before dawn Wednesday.

Firefighters responded to Narragansett Boulevard at about 2:30 a.m. Two of the houses were engulfed in flames when they arrived.

Neighbors reported hearing explosions before the fire broke out.

"I heard a loud boom. And then I heard a second boom," John Santillo told NBC 10 News. "I looked out my back porch and the whole house is up. The whole house is involved in fire."

Others shared similar sentiments.

"There were just booms in the middle of the night -- like fireworks in the sky, embers flying through the sky," Donald Koch, who lives nearby, said. "It was awful. It was awful. It was awful."

Chief Michael Cranston of the Portsmouth Fire Department said the explosions were probably caused by propane tanks.

Cranston also said crews were trying to account for all of the residents. A state police cadaver dog was brought in to search the rubble.

He added that one couple escaped their home and that they were being helped by the Red Cross.

The fire was under control about five hours later, and crews were still dousing hot spots.

Investigators with the state fire marshal's office were at the scene.

"This is unbelievable, how quick this went up," Santillo said, with Koch adding, "It was scary as hell."

Firefighters have not identified the victim or determined a cause.

The fire remains under investigation.

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