8-Alarm Fire Ravages Massachusetts Buildings

Updated: 12-16-2007 06:10:58 AM

Story by thebostonchannel.com


One man was confirmed dead Saturday morning after a spectacular eight-alarm fire broke out in an apartment building in Gloucester.

It then spread to Temple Ahavat Achim, reducing both buildings to embers.

Fire Images

As many as 20 families were left homeless from the fire in the Lorraine Apartments at 80 Middle St., fire officials said.

The fire broke out around midnight and quickly engulfed the five story building. The fire forced the evacuation of residents and destroyed a temple next door.

"This is as tragic a fire as we have had in a long time in Gloucester," said Mayor John Bell.

As firefighters entered the building and attempted to rescue one of its residents, fire officials became concerned for their safety.

"The fire gained in intensity," said Fire Chief Barry Mackay.

The potential for collapse led Mackay to order the crews to withdraw. Fire then exploded through the roof of the building.

Seventeen residents of the building were not immediately accounted for. However, State Fire Marshal Steven Coan told NewsCenter 5's Steve Lacy that he believed all had made it out of the building.

"The Red Cross and human service agencies have been working frantically through the night to locate them," said Coan.

Temple Ahavat Achim, which the mayor said had been recently restored, is next to the apartment building at 86 Middle St.

Rabbi Samuel Barth told the Boston Globe that the temple has about 220 families and has been a part of the Gloucester community for 100 years.

"The heart of the community is the people," he told the newspaper. "People will get together and cry, but the heart and soul of this community is still strong."

The Trinity Congregational Church is located nearby at 70 Middle St., but escaped without damage.

The buildings were just 50 feet from Fire Department headquarters and 500 feet from City Hall. But firefighters were able to stop the fire from spreading throughout downtown.

"While this is a tragic and horrific loss in the holiday sesason, there is a really success story in that firefighters who were challenged by a rapidly spreading fire saved many historic buldings, including the library," said Coan.

Witnesses said fiery ash fell on spectators as thick smoke poured from the buildings.

Officials did not immediately identity the victim and said the cause of the fire had not been determined.
AP Photo/Lisa Poole
A Gloucester, Mass. firefighter hoses down what is left of a four-story apartment building, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007 following an eight-alarm fire in Gloucester, Mass. One person was killed in the fire.