MANCHESTER — A Friday afternoon fire on Spruce Street destroyed two apartment buildings and damaged at least four more.
Chief Daniel Goonan of the Manchester Fire Department said no one was hurt in the blaze. But the strong wind Friday afternoon kept the fire burning for hours.
“We’re going to be here for quite some time,” Goonan said.
The Red Cross said 16 people were left homeless due to the blaze.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation Friday night, District Chief Henry Martineau said, but it appeared to have started in the back of the apartment building at 232 Spruce St., before spreading to the neighboring triple-decker house. Both buildings were destroyed.
Goonan said the three-alarm fire meant almost every city firefighter on duty — about 190 — was fighting the blaze. He added it was more difficult than usual to find other fire departments willing to cover Manchester’s fire stations while city firefighters were occupied on Spruce Street, because of COVID-19 concerns.
Martineau said 12 apartments were destroyed.
Hundreds of people spilled onto the streets to watch the blaze. People ran into alleys to get a closer look at the flames, and pulled sweatshirts over their mouths to block the billowing yellow smoke.
Ankle-deep water ran across part of Spruce Street, and children jumped into puddles full of cinders.
Holly, Roger and Jonathan Berry were among the onlookers. They saw the smoke from their home on the West Side, and drove to take a closer look.
“It makes you want to cry,” Holly Berry said. “A lot of people lost their homes.”
Goonan shook his head at the people gathered in the street, watching the fire. They were too close together, he said.
“There’s no social distancing here,” Goonan said. “This is trouble.”