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Lowell apartment house fire claims 7 lives, including three children
Firefighters work Thursday morning at the scene of a fire that killed seven people in Lowell, Mass. (Mark Garfinkel/Boston Herald)
“Obviously a horrible day in the city of Lowell,” State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said. “I cannot recall in recent times responding to a fire with this many fatalities. This was a fast-moving fire that overtook that building. It will be some time before the victims can be removed from the building.”
“I went to the scene hoping that everybody made it out,” he said. “But when I pulled up on the Cambodian store lot, I only saw two of my nephews. My brother had five kids and that was pretty much it. I only saw two out of seven.”
Responding on a third alarm, the truck was dispatched out of the Lake Street Station to the fire scene at around 5 a.m., said Nashua Deputy Fire Chief Karl Gerhard.
Coan said he has asked Ryan to join him in a thorough review of the dwelling’s code compliance history. The building had a ground-floor liquor store and nine residential units, with one vacant, housing 48-50 people, according to authorities.
Coan said authorities are investigating reports by some witnesses that they did not hear smoke alarms go off when the 4 a.m. three-alarm conflagration erupted. Lowell Deputy Fire Chief Patrick McCabe said there are fire escapes on the building, and previous responses to the address for minor issues have shown there to be a working fire alarm system.
“We were there a year and four months ago and anything dealing with fire safety checked out, including smoke alarms and CO2, and there were no problems.” said Eric Sagle, director of Development Services for the city.
Elliott said code inspectors have already pulled the building’s records and are cooperating fully.
The blaze was spotted by a police officer on patrol who called it in.
Chendara Chun, 18, who lives in a neighboring building, said he heard what sounded like fireworks, but it was a child’s screams of terror that got him on his feet out of a sound sleep to wake his sister Sarin Chun, 31.
His sister said she could make out in the dark someone holding the little girl out the window at arm’s length.
The property, built in 1980, is owned by Sanjay Patel, of DK Ram LLC, according to city property records.
He said the boyfriend tried to get them out the door, but the intense fire drove them back so he got them to the window, where they were all rescued by firefighters.
Survivors are being sheltered at the city’s senior center.
“These families are going to need clothing, basic necessities in life ... They have nothing,” the city’s mayor said. “They lost everything in this fire.”
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