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.
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/