By James Niedzinski and Andrea Holbrook
A smoky blaze that started late Friday night destroyed the upper floors of multi-family home on Perkins Street.
The alarm came in around 10:30 and went to a second alarm shortly before 11 p.m.
The incident commander was reporting heavy smoke on the second floor of the wooden three-story building when firefighters arrived.
Onlookers watched outside in the cold as the fire ate at the building, which is roughly 3,294 square feet.
"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."Everybody in the three-story building reportedly got out safely.
Police soon closed sections of Mount Vernon, Staten and Perkins streets, which remained closed into 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 men 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 other firefighters in distress if needed.
Dozens of firefighters from Gloucester, Essex Rockport, and Hamilton battled the blaze until shortly before 1 a.m. , while Hamilton and Beverly firefighters covered the stations.
The Department of Public Works was 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 Red Cross arrived shortly before the sanders, to help those who lived in building, and with coffee for those fighting the blaze.
Robert and Chandra Beloff bought the building in late December for $341,000, according to the Register of Deeds. The couple arrived at the fire scene around 11 p.m.
"Everyone got out safe, and that's all that really matters," Chandra Beloff said.
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