Saturday, 2:15 PM
Four-alarm fire at Mandarin Hotel site causes $2m in damage
By John Ellement, Globe Staff
A four-alarm fire this morning on Boylston Street at the construction site for the posh Mandarin Oriental Hotel caused an estimated $2 million in damage, the Boston Fire Department said.
Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said the blaze, which broke out at about 7:40 a.m. at the 14-story structure at 776 Boylston, damaged portions of both the ceiling and the floor on the fourth floor. He said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but it is not considered suspicious.
Two firefighters sustained minor injuries and were treated and released, he said.
Firefighters arriving at the site found heavy smoke and fire in three rooms containing construction materials, said Deputy Fire Chief Richard DiBenedetto.
He said the fact that the building was not yet open helped bring the incident to to a quick end.
"It's fortunate it wasn't completed," he said. "That would have been a whole different scenario."
The Mandarin complex is nearing completion. In addition to a hotel, the building will include condo units. About 50, priced between $2 million and $12 million, have been sold. The luxury project also includes expensive rental units.
Dozens of construction workers were inside the building when workers on the fourth floor spotted smoke and fire and started alerting their colleagues, workers said.
They said some workers shouted warnings up the open elevator shaft and others called one another on cell phones. Workers rushed down stairwells in what several said was a generally orderly evacuation.
The fire did its heaviest damage not to the Boylson street side -- where firefighters smashed about a dozen windows as they fought the fire -- but in the rear of the building where the three rooms that burned were located.
Leslie MacKinnon, a drywall installer, was working on the 11th floor when she heard shouts of alarm from below and from co-workers nearby. "All I saw was smoke," she said. "We all followed everybody out. You don't want to panic."
Frank Jevoli said he and others stepped off the elevator onto the fourth floor and immediately noticed heavy smoke conditions. A foreman with the Laborers Union, Local 22, Jevoli said he started alerting coworkers on that floor and adjacent floors to evacauate.
"You couldn't see nothing" through the smoke, he said. He said his group could not get back onto the elevator. "It was just engulfed in flames."
Several workers said their unions, along with prime contractor, Suffolk Construction Co. Inc., held weekly safety meetings. Gathering points outside the building were known in advance, they said.
Kim Steimle, a spokeswoman for Suffolk, said it would take a week to fully evaluate the impact of the fire on the building, which was slated to open in July.
An "extensive and thorough cleanup" is under way and construction will resume tomorrow, she said in a statement.
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