A woman suffered serious injuries after she leaped from a window three floors above the ground to escape a fire in her Fitchburg apartment building this morning, officials said. Five others, including a firefighter, were also injured in the blaze.
Fire Chief Kevin Roy said the woman, whose name was not released, was hanging from a bedroom window, afraid for her life, while firefighters struggled to reach her with a ladder, impeded by burning electrical wires leading to the house.
“She was in bad danger from heat and smoke,” he said. “One of the lieutenants instructed her to jump towards the tree and she did.”
She was taken to a local hospital and is expected to survive, Roy said.
Officials believe the three-alarm fire began at about 8:30 a.m. on the third floor of the four-story apartment building at 124 Daniels St.
The building is home to about two dozen people, Roy said.
Roy said Fire Captain Dave Rousseau, who was off-duty at the time, saw the flames and ran into the building. He saved a woman and a sleeping man from the upper floors.
Firefighters were alerted to the emergency by two women who saw the fire and walked about four blocks to the station to report it, Roy said. By the time firefighters arrived, flames were shooting out of the third- and fourth-floor windows.
The injured firefighter, who was one of the first on the scene, suffered burns to his head when flaming debris fell on him, Roy said. He was treated and released from a local hospital.
All firefighters were ordered to evacuate the building and attempt to douse the fire from the exterior when it spread to the attic.
The apartment building next door also caught fire, Roy said. It melted the siding but did not reach the interor. Residents will be able to return to that building once power is restored, he said.
After about 40 minutes, Roy said, the fire was under control, but it still took several hours to completely extinguish.
Several residents were transported to local hospitals, Roy said, mostly suffering from “stress-related issues.”
St. Joseph parish, located across the street from the fire, turned into a temporary shelter for a handful of the residents.
Janice Potter, an office manager at the parish, said that when the fire began, she went out to see what was going on and saw “flames shooting out of the top.”
She said she could smell the smoke from within the church.
According to the town assessor’s office, the wood-framed building is worth about $145,000 and was built in the early 1900s. It contains six units.
Roy said it would be up to the owner of the building to decide whether or not it will be repaired. He could estimate the damage amount but said the thrid and fourth floors sustained extensive smoke and fire damage, while the first and second floors had a lot of water damage.
The Fitchburg arson squad and state fire marshal’s office are investigating the cause of the fire. Roy said it appears the flames started on the third floor.