Candle suspected of sparking Derby Street blaze

By JILL HARMACINSKI

Staff writer

SALEM -- An unattended candle may have fueled a suppertime blaze at a home on thickly-settled Derby Street.

The 5:17 p.m. fire ripped through the first floor of the yellow, vinyl-sided home at 81 Derby St. last night.

No one living in the home, which is owned by John Pierre Draczuk, was hurt. Salem Firefighter Robert Lemelin did suffer an arm injury fighting the blaze, however.

Salem firefighters arrived at the home last night to find heavy smoke coming from the first floor. But as firefighters tried to get inside, the blaze heated up so much, the fire literally exploded, pushing fire crews back.

One firefighter, Robert Lemelin, severely cut and possibly broke his arm when the blaze blew firefighters back.

He continued to fight the fire but was later relieved of duty and taken to Salem Hospital for treatment, according to the fire department.

Fire crews immediately struck two alarms and called for help from crews in Beverly, Danvers, Lynn and Marblehead.

Firefighters feared last night's cold temperatures, brisk winds and the close proximity of homes and buildings in the area could have been be a recipe for disaster.

"This is an extremely congested area," Salem Fire Chief Robert Turner said.

However, Turner noted the blaze was knocked down in approximately 10 minutes.

Acting Deputy Chief William Hudson agreed.

"I thought we were in this one for the long haul," he said. "The guys did an excellent job on this fire. Things could have been a lot worse."

Draczuk, the building's owner, was not living in the home. The family that was, who was not identified last night, sought temporary housing with family.

The blaze remains under investigation although a candle is eyed as the fire's cause, according to the fire department.