More than a dozen people, including a baby and a toddler, escaped without injury this morning from a roaring three-alarm blaze that consumed an apartment building in Lawrence.
“The house was billowing with flames, wires were slinging off telephone poles, glass was flying everywhere,” said Denise Diaz, a nurse at a nursing home across the street who raced to help. “It was like a movie scene, like when they do explosives on a movie scene. It’s something you’d never imagine.”
The city's acting fire chief, Brian Murphy, said the blaze at 357-9 Howard St.was reported at 10:49 a.m. and it took firefighters more than three minutes to reach the house. He said fire crews could have reached the building in 30 seconds if a nearby firehouse hadn't been closed due to budget constraints.
“If the fire truck was there in 30 seconds, it would have contained the fire to a lot less damage than occurred today," Murphy said.
A two-month-old boy and a two-year-old girl were among the 14 people displaced. Diaz said she and two other women who work at the German Home nursing home helped in the rescue.
“I don’t even know if there are words to describe it,” said Lisa Robichaud, one of Diaz's colleagues who assisted with rescue efforts. “You don’t even give it a thought, you just go.”
“We just did what I hope anyone would do,” she added.
Murphy said the fire was caused by improper use of an electric space heater. The heater, which was on the front porch of the second floor, was placed too close to combustibles.
Officials estimated the damage at $250,000.
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