Predawn fire misplaces families for hours

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff photo. A small fire at this house at 5 Elwell St. in Gloucester displaced four families for several hours on Friday morning. 

An apparent small electrical fire in a house on Gloucester's Elwell Street briefly forced four families, a total of some 15 people, from their homes early Friday morning.

Residents were able to return to the house within hours, the house's co-owner said, and there were no reports of injuries.

There was minimal damage to the building but the shutdown of utilities temporarily forced the residents from the four-unit house at 5 Elwell St., said Deputy Fire Chief Tom LoGrande.

The fire was discovered when one of the residents who goes to work early in the day found smoke coming from the attic shortly after 3 a.m. and called the Fire Department, he said.

The first crews on the scene did not find any outward signs of smoke, and did not declare the small blaze a "working fire." But in pulling up the floorboards between the attic and the ceiling to a second-floor living room, they found a number of burning wires and were able to extinguish the blaze before it could spread to any of the apartments below.

"The areas where the wires were burned or charred was the only area where any fire really burned," LoGrande said.

He said the need to shut down utilities to the building essentially forced the residents out of the house.

Co-owner Adrienne Blue said Friday that power had been restored and residents were able to get back into their homes later that morning.

She and LoGrande acknowledged that, had the smoldering wires not been discovered early, the result could have been much worse.

"We're very grateful — very thankful over Thanksgiving," said Blue, who lives in Lynnfield and co-owns the house with her husband Yitzhak. The house and property is assessed at $383,400, according to city records, and the Blues have owned it since 1982.

LoGrande said the preliminary cause was being pegged as overheated wiring.

"The fire was really discovered before it broke out," he said.

Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or

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