Monday, April 28, 2008
Flames engulf adjacent three-deckers; 30 displaced

By Scott J. Croteau TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
scroteau@telegram.com

WORCESTER— Firefighters Jeffrey E. Rutkiewicz and Karl F. Solomon rushed into the burning building and through the thick smoke with a hose in hand yesterday morning looking for residents left inside the three-decker on Hudson Street.

On the second floor, Firefighter Solomon found a woman in bed. He told her to get out while his partner found the woman’s husband — a little dazed — in the kitchen.

Firefighter Solomon moved the woman out of the bedroom at 11 Hudson St. Moments later the third-floor ceiling collapsed as wood and material fell and a sheet of fire crashed down.


“Like 20 seconds after he got this woman out of the bed my partner saw the whole third floor drop into the bedroom where she was,” Firefighter Rutkiewicz said. “That was a perfect example of actual seconds counting.”

“I haven’t seen that before,” Firefighter Solomon said.

Both firefighters from Engine 4 decided it was time to get the residents and themselves out. Firefighter Solomon said the force from the flames and ceiling falling actually pushed doors shut on the second floor while firefighters from Engine 2 battled the blaze.

“If it wasn’t for their heroic acts, we would have critical if not fatal injuries on the third floor,” District Fire Chief Frank D. DiLiddo III said.

While inside the apartment Firefighter Rutkiewicz tried to stop the fire from eating through the wall in the kitchen. From above he heard the flames rumble.

“You could hear it roaring over us like a freight train,” he said.

Next door at 75 Townsend St., Roberto Santiago’s wife heard a neighbor yelling outside. The building next door was in flames.

Mr. Santiago didn’t hesitate and grabbed his shirtless 7-year-old son and ran outside of his first-floor apartment at 75 Townsend St.

“The roof, everything just caught on fire,” he said at midmorning, standing feet from the smoldering embers in between his building and an adjacent one at 11 Hudson St. “This is the first time I’ve seen something like this.”

Firefighters were called to Hudson Street — a side street off Park Avenue — about 5:45 a.m. for a report of a fire. Flames were shooting from the roof of the Hudson Street three-decker.

The fire quickly spread from the Hudson Street building to the three-decker at 75 Townsend St. The two streets intersect; the two buildings that caught fire have abutting property lines. The buildings are about a car-width apart.

A column of fire soon took shape on Townsend Street, consuming wooden stairs and porches.

A mess of burned embers and stairs was all that remained yesterday.

Pieces of ash lofted into the air and were strewn about Park Avenue. Police blocked off Hudson and Townsend streets.

Both roofs on the two buildings collapsed.

The cause and origin of the three-alarm fire are under investigation. Authorities said the fire appears to be accidental. Chief DiLiddo said firefighters saw flames coming from the third floor of the Hudson Street building; exactly where the fire started is part of the investigation.

Fire spread quickly, said Chief DiLiddo, calling the flames between the two buildings a “firestorm.”

The paint and lights of one firetruck parked close to the scene melted because of the heat emanating from the rapidly developing fire. It took about two hours to get the fire under control.

Alex Chevrevski, owner of both buildings, said he was called about 6 a.m. and told the buildings were on fire. He saw thick smoke billowing out from the buildings as he approached.

There were six apartments in each building. Nicole Valentine, director of emergency services-public affairs of the American Red Cross of Central Massachusetts, said 25 adults and five children were displaced. No tenants were injured.

Two firefighters were treated for minor injuries.

“This was a seamless operation considering the number of units affected and individuals displaced,” she said.

“This is due largely in part to the assistance the Red Cross received from the Worcester Fire Department Incident Command, Worcester Emergency Management and everyone at the Blessed Sacrament Church.”

The Pleasant Street church allowed the Red Cross to open a service center there.

“We are also appreciative to the neighbors who came out and helped with interpreting, and they also provided transportation to some of the neighbors in need,” Ms. Valentine said.

Temporary housing was provided for six of the families and all the residents received clothing and food assistance.

As he stood outside his apartment yesterday, Mr. Santiago said his family’s possessions are lost, but those can be replaced.

“That’s nothing. The most important thing is my family,” he said.
http://www.telegram.com/article/2008...804280607/1116

photo
Flames engulf 11 Hudson St. during a three-alarm fire that broke out early yesterday.photo WILLIAM METTEVILLE