A massive, 10-alarm blaze erupted Saturday afternoon in a dense Cambridge neighborhood, causing the collapse of one building, damaging seven others, and displacing 50 to 60 residents as firefighters navigated crowded residential streets to contain the destruction.
Authorities were alerted to the fire just before 3 p.m. as flames began to consume a three-family home that was undergoing renovations on Berkshire Street in East Cambridge, officials said.
The blaze quickly spread, requiring authorities to summon firefighters from nearly 20 communities to contain the fire as it extended to other residences in the area between Kendall and Inman squares, said Cambridge Fire Chief Gerald Reardon.
As of Saturday evening, authorities reported the fire left three to four people with minor injuries, including two Cambridge police officers who were overcome by smoke and being treated at the scene.
“Fortunately it was daytime,” Reardon told reporters at the scene. “People are awake, available, not sleeping. Actually, we’re just very fortunate right now.”
He said firefighters had to negotiate large fire trucks, ladders, and equipment through narrow streets as they tried to fight the flames that damaged a number of three-deckers, vehicles, and a former church building that was converted into residences.
By 8 p.m., officials had the blaze contained but not entirely under control, according to officials at the scene.
Michael Workman, a designer for bostonglobe.com, said the flames consumed a three-family residence on Berkshire Street that was undergoing renovations.
“It went up in a heartbeat,” said Workman, who lives across from the residence and called 911. “It was just raging … It was just going so fast. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The flames jumped across the street, setting the roof of another residence on fire and hurling debris into the wind, he said.
About a month ago, workers had begun renovating the home that went up in flames and were working there Saturday morning, Workman said.
Authorities haven’t determined the cause or origin of the fire, but believe it likely started near the residence undergoing renovations, Reardon said. The building collapsed in the fire.
“This is not going to be any easy, quick rendering of a decision,” Reardon said.
By 6 p.m., he said firefighters were focusing on flames at a three-decker and inside the former church building, now known as St. Patrick’s Place.
“The fire is in the top of the building,” Reardon said. “We’re trying our best to control that.”
Power was cut to the neighborhood and was expected to stay out for a good portion of the night, officials said. The city opened a shelter at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, according to Reardon. He couldn’t say when residents could return to their homes.
“It’s going to be protracted for these people,” Reardon said.
The blaze generated thick, black smoke that rose over the city and forced passersby to cover their mouths with scarves and swat away smoke on Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, blocks away from the fire. Firefighters also had to contend with winds that measured 25 miles per hour in Boston just before 5 p.m.
At least six fire trucks were parked on the Avenue, where thick yellow water lines snake through the road toward the fire on Berkshire Street.
Source: The Boston Globe | Laura Crimaldi, Amanda Burke and Felicia Gans