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Last night the building next door to us burned and the six families who lived there lost their homes.

It was about 11:45pm and had gone to bed. I was in the bathroom getting ready to step into the shower when I heard a beeping sound followed a few moments later by shouting and screaming. I put on my robe and ran out to look out in the front and then ran to the back porch and could see flames shooting out about 4-6 feet from the third floor back porch on the far side of the building. The house next door is a six unit rental property with 3 stories of apartments whose back porches are separated by a central stairwell. I immediately ran back in and told J that the house next door was on fire and we should dress and be ready to get out if need be. I then ran back on our rear porch just as the fire trucks began to arrive. At that point the porch was well involved and the firemen began to pour water on but I could see that flames were in the stairwell and beginning to come to over to the porch on our side of the building so I shouted to the fireman to direct some spray over that way which he did. Firemen with breathing apparatus were entering the building then from the stairwell and from ladders and Ladder Truck 4 had extended its ladder along the side of the house to reach the porch and house roofs. The firemen in the house began to smash out all the windows and pretty soon they had the blaze contained. Thank heavens that at that time the breeze had died down, if it was windy as it had been during the day, the flames very easily could have engulfed the entire porch and jumped the 15’ gap over to our house. A giant debt of gratitude is also due to the Boston Fire Department for the super fast response. They were here in what seemed like only moments and literally hit the ground running.

View of the site if the fire, just as the flames were being extinguished.

I found out several things later while talking with our neighbors, first that it was apparently a smoldering cigarette which caused the blaze, and that the men from the 1st and 3rd floors from the house next door on the other side saw the fire (probably from their porches), and then ran to the burning house, broke in and went to each apartment beating on the doors to wake up the residents to get them out. This was the shouting and screaming I heard while I was in the bathroom. Their bravery prevented what could have been a horrible tragedy because the family with a toddler on the 2nd floor was sound asleep at the time and I believe more as well.

Places were found in the neighborhood for everyone to stay for the next few nights but the house will be uninhabitable until it is repaired, which will probably be months, so new apartments for the residents will need to be located. Many of the residents did not have rental insurance and at least two of the families have lost everything, the remainder has lost possessions to varying degrees of water and smoke damage. We are looking into setting up a fund for donations and of having a benefit with music and maybe an auction. I will post more info for donations and on the benefit as we get things pulled together.

We will be looking to our own property insurance in the light of this and I want to get good quality fire extinguishers for each landing of our back stairwell. We have new smoke detectors throughout the house and a carbon monoxide detector in the stairwell to the cellar.

Not the way I had wanted to spend my Friday night…

EDIT: A short article from the JP patch: http://jamaicaplain.patch.com/articles/porch-fire-on-jamaica-plain-s-paul-gore-street-displaces-residents

Date: 2012-04-21 09:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hugh-mannity.livejournal.com
Wow! That could have been really nasty. Glad no one was hurt.

Date: 2012-04-22 01:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucianus.livejournal.com
It could have been infinitely worse, especially if it was at all windy. A fire could have jumped the gap between our houses without too much trouble.

Date: 2012-04-22 01:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hugh-mannity.livejournal.com
Yep. When I first moved here we lived in triple decker on Dot Ave. The house next to us went up in flames one evening. Their smoke detectors weren't working. Fortunately a passer-by flagged down a cop. The cop called it in the ran into the burning building and got the 2nd and 1st floor tenants out. No one was home on the 3rd floor, where the fire started.

But yea, that's not much of a gap for a fire on a windy day. Especially when it's as dry as it is at the moment.

Date: 2012-04-23 12:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucianus.livejournal.com
I have been so very happy for this rain. Not only has it soaked the house well but our poor gasping garden is heaving a sigh of relief.

Date: 2012-04-23 02:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hugh-mannity.livejournal.com
My garden too. I hope this soaks in some. I've been watering, but it only seems to help the top couple of inches. Dig down at all and it's dry as dust.

I went out in the rain yesterday and scattered a box of wildflower seeds onto the bed in the back. Raked them in and with a bit of luck the rain will do the rest -- if it doesn't wash them all away.

Date: 2012-04-21 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gwendolynbasing.livejournal.com
How scary! I'm glad no one was hurt. How nice and refreshing that neighbors are helping neighbors. Glad to hear that you guys are both okay. Hugs!

Date: 2012-04-22 01:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucianus.livejournal.com
Its really been great the way everyone has been pulling together with this and that no one was injured. It could have been very much worse.

Date: 2012-04-21 10:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goldsquare.livejournal.com
If you put on a benefit, call on all your talented friends...

Date: 2012-04-22 01:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucianus.livejournal.com
Thank you! If we can get this pulled together we will!

Date: 2012-04-21 11:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loosecanon.livejournal.com
Don't forget to check the extinguishers, they have a shelf life.
I am so relieved it was not worse.

Date: 2012-04-22 01:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucianus.livejournal.com
We have extinguishers in our house but I am going to get ones for each of the landings front and back. We have newly installed fire alarms on all floors which are very sensitive (i'm always setting them off while cooking).

Date: 2012-04-22 12:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fangirl715.livejournal.com
No wonder you didn't come to May Day! I'm glad the two of you are fine, and that everyone got out of the burning building thanks to the other neighbors, but it's still a horrible thing for all of them to go through. And yes, keep us all posted about any benefits, OK?

Date: 2012-04-22 01:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucianus.livejournal.com
I actually spent my day at work cataloging photographs, so May Day for me I'm afraid.

I'll keep you posted as to any developments about a benefit.

Date: 2012-04-22 01:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estela-dufrayse.livejournal.com
I was watching the news this morning about the fires there and was wondering if anyone we knew was affected. I remember living in an area much like yours when I lived in Saint John, we were always terrified when there was fire.

hugs to you guys, I am glad to hear you are safe.

Date: 2012-04-23 12:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucianus.livejournal.com
Thank you for your good wishes. We and the kitties are fine and our neighbors have at least found lodging for the next few days. They have also begun to report in themselves on our neighborhood mailing list so that is good.

Date: 2012-04-22 01:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] albreda.livejournal.com
Hurray for neighbours! (Also *major* hurray that as I told O and R about this, six year old R asked "what is a cigarette?")

So glad everyone is safe. I'll take all the wind the skies dish out this weekend gratefully.

Date: 2012-04-23 12:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucianus.livejournal.com
Yes indeed about the rain! We got a 50 gallon rain barrel on Thursday and it is now full, yay! Also a big yay that R didn't know what a cigarette was. I wish our neighbor on the 2nd floor was the same way.

Date: 2012-04-22 03:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] safiya-shirazi.livejournal.com
Very glad all the residents - two and four legged - made it out. Also very impressed by the men who ran in and roused the house. It's nice to know that people can still do the right thing.

I'm also very, very glad that your house wasn't damaged.

Date: 2012-04-23 12:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucianus.livejournal.com
You and me both on the possible damage to our house. If I wasn't such a sissy about heights I would have been up there on the roof with a fire extinguisher and a watering can making sure things didn't spread.

Date: 2012-04-24 03:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] soteltie.livejournal.com
I'm so glad everyone is OK. What a scary night!
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