Heat Takes Toll on Crews at Mass. Fire

July 11--LAWRENCE -- A 2-alarm fire at 116-118 Easton St. displaced nine people last evening.

None of them was injured, but three firefighters suffered heat exhaustion and were treated at the scene. The temperature was in the high 80s and the air was humid.

Where the fire started and what caused it were being investigated last night.

"Your body takes a beating," fire Deputy Chief Brian Murphy said. The affected firefighters drank lots of water and one sat in an ambulance to cool down.

All three stayed on the job, Murphy said.

A large terrier, Karma, got out of the building but a Chihuahua perished.

The second-floor rear porch was "fully involved" when firefighters arrived, Murphy said. The first alarm sounded at 6:04 p.m., with the second called in at 6:10. Methuen firefighters provided station coverage.

"The guys were taking a beating from the heat and fire," Murphy said.

While the porch and attic sustained heavy damage, firefighters did an "excellent job" of "aggressively knocking the fire down" and keeping the flames from spreading into the second- and first-floor apartments, Murphy said. They also kept the fire from destroying the roof or spreading to two adjacent houses, he added.

The 2 1/2-story, 2-family wood frame building appears to be rebuildable, the deputy chief said. There was smoke damage throughout the house so tenants could not stay there last night, he said.

Gilberto Perez Sr., of 116 Easton St., who has lived on the first floor for three to four years, said he was sitting at his kitchen table with other family members when his grandson yelled, "There's smoke!"

The smoke was coming from the second-floor back porch, he said.

His son, Gilberto Perez Jr., owns the house.

Three adults reside on the first floor while three adults and three children live on the second floor, Murphy said.

"At least we are alive," the elder Perez said.

Deb Duxbury, disaster relief coordinator for the American Red Cross, and three volunteers were interviewing displaced residents, including the owner, last night. Duxbury said the Red Cross will provide them with shelter for two nights, if necessary, as well as food.

Murphy said firefighters had the blaze under control within 40 minutes. All trucks had left by around 7:30 p.m.

Four engines, two ladder trucks, a rescue vehicle and a Lawrence General Hospital ambulance coverged on the scene. Firefighters used two hydrants, one on Easton Street, maybe 100 feet from the fire, and another on Farley Street, a block away.

Water pressure was adequate, Murphy said.

A young girl, accompanied by her parents, gave the firefighters a handful of ice-cold water bottles, Murphy said.

"It was very much appreciated," he said.

Copyright 2014 - The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.