By Sophia Laperle
A rapid fire broke loose in an apartment building only a mile away from Fitchburg State University on September 22nd, which left dozens of people without homes.Roughly 60 first responders were involved in controlling the horrific scene that evening. Captain Dante Suarez at the Fitchburg Fire Department Headquarter explained the cause of the fire, as well as other details his crew faced that evening. Suarez stated “Now what we do know is that there were a few explosions heard by residents in the surrounding neighbors.”
Fitchburg’s fire prevention team and Police Department, along with the State Fire Marshals are investigating more into the cause of the fire and the motive behind it. There were IEDs (explosive devices) found in the resident’s apartment who apparently was the root of the explosion. More IEDs were found in the apartment that had not been set off. The resident who was involved with explosives was found deceased in his third floor apartment where the explosions sparked from. The resident was identified as a 59 year old Raymond Jerome. According to an article written by WHDH, Jerome had been a resident of the apartment building for decades.
There was only 1 fatality and 2 people hospitalized for injuries, however, multiple pets were lost in the 3 alarm fire. Captain Saualos explained his team faced numerous complications along the way, as it took roughly 6 hours to put the fire out. There was also an inadequate water supply for the amount it should have been for the size of the building it was. With this fire rooting from an explosive device, one of the main concerns was a secondary device going off whether it was deliberately set or unintentional such as from a gas leak, which can be a major safety concern. Another concern was to take caution just in case there was any structural damage to the building such as collapsing structures. The water pressure was also another complication, as first responders were forced to pump water up from Water St. Due to the roof being so large, the fire spread quickly which made it difficult for first responders to get it under control, as they could not get a hold of it until it burned through.
The total number of residents that were displaced was 43. “I know that they’re working with the Red Cross and Salvation Army. They have a couple of programs that help people when they displace like that,” said Saualos. The tremendous damage the explosions caused on the third floor is not salvageable. But within the next couple of days, residents of the 1st and 2nd floors will be allowed back into the building to grab any belongings left behind. The motivation behind this fire is currently still under investigation, but is set to be an isolated incident.