A woman was in critical condition after she leaped from the third floor of a burning house in Allston early this morning, hitting a lower roof before landing on a fire lieutenant who was trying to erect a ladder to reach her, officials said.
Another four of the 10 people who were in the building at the time, including a man who jumped from the second floor, were transported to local hospitals and treated for smoke inhalation and other minor injuries. The firefighter who broke the woman’s fall was hospitalized and treated for “bumps and bruises,” Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said. He has since been released, but will “remain off-duty with a back injury,” according to the department’s official Twitter account.
The white, three-story wooden apartment building at 62-64 Quint Ave. was gutted by the five-alarm blaze and is expected to be a total loss, MacDonald said. With Hurricane Sandy fast approaching the region, officials said they would move quickly to secure the building, boarding up windows and likely knocking down an unstable portion of third story that is vulnerable to wind.
The cause is still unknown; investigators spent several hours in the home, and interviewed residents at the scene and at local hospitals. MacDonald said smoke detectors in the building worked as expected and could be heard even as the fire burned.
Calls reporting the fire started coming in at 6:18 a.m., MacDonald said. Firefighters from a nearby ladder company arrived within minutes, finding heavy smoke and flames pouring from the house. They immediately ordered a second alarm, MacDonald said. Ultimately, nearly 100 firefighters responded, he said.
MacDonald said officers arriving on the scene saw a woman poised to jump from a third-story window in the back of the house; the roof above her was fully engulfed in flames. Firefighters, working in heavy, “billowing” smoke, were attempting to erect a 35-foot ground ladder to reach the woman when she jumped for the ladder while it was still in mid-air. She missed, and fell onto a small section of roof over a first-floor entrance before landing on a firefighter who was helping with the ladder.
There “must have been terrible conditions” that prompted the woman to jump, MacDonald said, noting that it is easy to become disoriented in heavy smoke.
“Fires of this magnitude are rare... It was so smoky, they couldn’t see much,” he said. “It would have been better if they’d had time to set up the ladder. Hopefully she’s OK.”
MacDonald credited the department for responding quickly, thereby preventing damage to several nearby homes.
“The firefighters did a great job, because in this part of Allston, the buildings are so close together,” he said.
The area is heavily populated by college students, but it was not immediately known if all the residents attended area schools.
One woman who escaped unharmed was a student at the nearby ACS English School on Commonwealth Avenue, said Javier Montoro, 26, the woman’s boyfriend.
Montoro, who lives about 10 minutes away, said his girlfriend called him early in the morning to say her house was on fire.
“My first thought was that it was a little fire in the kitchen, or something small like that,” he said. Montoro got dressed and was walking over when he saw clouds of smoke. His girlfriend then called back, telling him, “my entire house is on fire.” She was awakened by the sound of glass windows exploding, and was able to run out the home’s back door uninjured, Montoro said.
A neighbor who did not want to be identified said his wife alerted him to the fire.
“You could hear that girl screaming,” he said.
He said he put on his coat and ran outside to see what was going on. “Let me out, I’m still alive, I’m still alive,” he said the woman continued to yell. He could not see her as fire crews pulled up and did not see her jump.
“The front of the house ... there was nothing but flame,” he said.
During the blaze, firefighters were ordered out of the building. Part of the roof later collapsed, according to officials.
The majority of the fire was extinguished by about 7:45 a.m., though firefighters continued to extinguish hot spots in the building’s roof throughout the morning. Damage has been estimated at $650,000, officials said.
The American Red Cross is assisting nine residents and one guest who were home during the fire, providing temporary housing, money for food and clothing, and other aid, a spokeswoman said. Two residents were not at home.