Saturday, 2:15 PM
Residents at fire-ravaged Peabody complex may return today
By Erin S. Ailworth, Globe Staff
Hundreds of residents of the high-end Peabody apartment complex evacuated last night following a massive fire in one of the buildings may be allowed back into their homes today, city and management company officials said today at a meeting at City Hall.
"Most of you will be able to get back into your units this afternoon," Spencer Welton, an official at Simpson Housing, an arm of the company that manages the Highlands at Dearborn complex, told a large group of residents.
Residents were asked to call a hotline at 978-535-3994 to check the status of their buildings.
The 18-building complex was completely evacuated late last night, while firefighters battled a blaze that burned Building 8 -- which contained 36 units -- to the ground. About 750 people were temporarily displaced.
At the meeting this afternoon, some residents questioned whether it was safe to return home, while others asked repeatedly how to locate missing pets or get their hands on necessary medications.
After the meeting, the Red Cross worked with the residents to find temporary lodgings, food, and replacement clothes. Less than a dozen residents ended up using a shelter set up at Salem State College last night, and Red Cross officials said they expected to close that shelter today.
"It's hard. I lost everything," Jessica Squeglia, one of 43 residents of Building 8, said as she waited in line for aid. "I have to figure out my finances, find another place to stay -- because I can't stay in a hotel forever."
Fire Chief Steven Pasdon said investigators are focusing on three areas of interest as they seek to determine the cause of the fire but declined to say what they were. Pasdon said Thursday that investigators were looking at a gas main as a possible cause.
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