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June 14, 2013

Washington St. fire started in building's exterior

The fire that drove four residents from their apartments in a Washington Street building last night apparently started in nesting material on the underside of a beam of the building’s exterior, state and local fire officials said this morning.

But the precise reason as to why the material ignited at 91A Washington St. remains unclear after an initial joint investigation involving the Gloucester Fire and Police departments, city building and electrical inspectors and the state fire marshal’s office, and that investigation is ongoing, officials said.

A report from Deputy Chief Miles Schlichte, who served as incident commander at the scene, said that a man inside the newly-opened Happy Dumplings restaurant noticed a “haze of smoke” accumulating inside the restaurant and called the fire department at around 7 p.m. Thursday.

The man then saw flames showing along the peak of the roof, and ran to the stairs of the apartment on the right side of the building and alerted the residents that the building was on fire; at least one resident was not home, while the others escaped safely.

There were no reports of any serious injuries from the fire, which caused an estimated $25,000 to $50,000 damage to the three-story, mixed-use building valued at $297,000, according to the city assessments.

“Prompt notification, a short response time and very aggressive firefighting prevented this fire from being much worse,” Schlichte said in his report.

All four residents of the building were staying with family members Thursday night and Friday.

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

For much more on this story, look to tomorrow’s print and online editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and gloucesertimes.com.

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