PELHAM, Mass. — Taylor Jackson was getting ready to go put gas in her car when she heard what sounded like a lot of gunshots going off all at once.
Jackson, 16, of Koper Lane, thought her neighbors might be firing test shots prior to the annual fireworks display they hold for family, friends and neighbors.
“But I saw an orange, like, mushroom cloud,” she said. “I knew that couldn’t be good.”
Fire Chief James Midgley said two children, 3 to 4 years-old, suffered potentially life-threatening burns and were among seven people hospitalized when a cache of fireworks exploded on the deck of a house at 40 Dodge Road. Police and firefighters got a 9-1-1 call about the explosion at 7:32 p.m.
“From what we understand, there were fireworks on the back deck that somehow ignited,” Midgley said.
The two children, who suffered the worst burns, were both taken by ambulance to the Harris Pelham Inn on Old Gage Hill Road, and from there flown by helicopters to Boston trauma centers. Midgley said one other child and four adults suffered “moderate to minor” burns in the incident, and were taken to hospitals in Nashua and Methuen.
Midgley said firefighters arrived to find all seven of the injured in the home’s front yard, while the back of the house was in flames. He said firefighters got the fire under control and that the flames caused moderate damage to the outside of the home. Jackson said, and telephone listings confirm, that Chris Pappathan and his family live in the home.
Jackson said they are good neighbors. “I feel awful,” she said.
Jackson said the family holds an annual fireworks display that draws family, friends and neighbors to their home in the well-kept subdivision, and that there have never been any problems before.
“They’re always so safe,” she said. “They do it every year and they’re always very safe.”
Midgley said what kind of fireworks were involved, and how many, remain under investigation, as does the cause of the explosion.
“Because of the extent of the damage in the back area, we’re going to have to piece everything together,” Midgley said.
New Hampshire State Police and the New Hampshire Fire Marshall’s Office were at the scene Tuesday night to assist in the investigation. New Hampshire State Police blocked off access to Dodge Road at Kopers Lane, and Police Lt. Brian McCarthy said the road would likely remain closed all night.
“We’re just beginning,” McCarthy said. “It’s going to be a very long night and a very thorough investigation.”
Later Tuesday night, at about 9 p.m., a 50-year-old man suffered an eye injury due to fireworks at 12 Jericho Road, police said. More information on that incident was not immediately available. The town of Pelham held its annual Fourth of July fireworks display shortly after 9 p.m.
Fireworks are legal in New Hampshire, unlike Massachusetts, but Midgley said he still has concerns about their use.
“I’m not a big fan of fireworks, never have been,” he said. “This is just an incident that shows what can happen if you don’t take proper precautions.”
Firefighters from Salem, Londonderry, Dracut and Windham helped Pelham respond to the incident. One of two small children hurt in a fireworks explosion at 40 Dodge Road in Pelham is loaded into a MedFlight helicopter at the nearby Harris Pelham Inn Tuesday night.