GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 19, 2013

Update: Perkins Street house fire ruled 'accidental'

By Times Staff
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — The cause of the fire that ravaged a three-family house on Perkins Street late Friday night and Saturday morning has been deemed accidental, Gloucester fire officials say, but the precise cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

Gloucester Deputy Chief Miles Schlichte said Saturday that the smoky, two-alarm fire, which struck at around 10:30 Friday night, started in a first-floor bedroom.

The blaze drove eight people from their homes, including two families being placed in temporary housing by the Red Cross – “in this case, a hotel stay paid for by our donors,” said Kat Powers, communcatiins director out of the Red Cross office in Cambridge. The other family is staying with family, Powers added.

All three units in the 9 Perkins St. building were occupied at the time, but all escaped safely — including one couple with an infant and another with a child. The Red Cross is also providing emergency funds for food and clothing, and provided blankets for those at the scene, Powers said.

“We’re handing out comfort kits, which are toiletries one will need in the morning, and funds for baby supplies the infant will need,” she added..

A Gloucester Fire Department crew also remained on the scene Saturday. The fire, on a narrow street that is off Mount Vernon Street above Prospect, posed a number of obstacles for crews, who confined the blaze to the single bulding.

“It’s a tough place to fight a fire,” Schlichte said Saturday morning – “tough access, a lot of properties on top of each other, a windy night -- the guys did a real good job.” The Department of Public Works was also called in around 12:45 a.m. Saturday to bring sand into the area, as streets iced up and firefighters started using chainsaws to clear debris.

The initial alarm for the fire came in around 10:30, and went to a second alarm shortly before 11 p.m.

The incident commander reported heavy smoke on the second floor of the wooden three-story building when firefighters arrived, and onlookers watched outside in the cold as the fire destroyed much of the 3,200-square-foot building.

“I heard somebody yell ‘call 911,’ so I did,” said Sandra Silva of 11 Perkins St. “When I saw someone run outside with their underwear on, I knew it wasn’t good.”

Police closed sections of Mount Vernon, Staten and Perkins streets -- all of which were reopened Saturday morning.

Firefighters were battling heavy smoke and flames on the third floor around 11:30 p.m. and were knocking holes in the roof. Fifteen minutes before midnight, the call went out for all firefighters to leave the building and protect nearby buildings from the blaze.

Rockport and Essex fire departments provided mutual aid, each with a pumper and firefighters at the scene. The Essex engine company acted as the Rapid Intervention Team, a crew of two or more firefighters dedicated solely for the search and rescue of other firefighters in distress if needed. But there were no reports of injuries.

Hamilton firefighters were also in the scene, while Hamilton and Beverly crews also covered Gloucester’s fire stations.

Property owners Robert and Chandra Beloff arrived at the fire scene around 11 p.m.

“Everyone got out safe, and that’s all that really matters,” Chandra Beloff said.

We will further update this story here at gloucestertimes.com as more information becomes available. To have text updates regarding this story and other local Breaking News coverage sent to your mobile phone, just sign up for the Times’ free text-alert service on the gloucestertimes.com homepage.

For more up-to-date coverage, follow the Times news team on Facebook or on Twitter.com @gdtnews.

For full coverage, look to Monday’s online and print editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and gloucestertimes.com.

Staff writers Andrea Holbrook and James Niedzinski contributed to this story.