Hampered by heavy smoke, firefighters eventually found the 46-year-old woman’s body in the basement of the Melrose Avenue building. After the fire, State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan questioned the legality of the basement apartment where Trevains was found. Trevains was believed to be visiting the building, said Brockton Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Murphy.
Coan said defective electrical wiring caused the fire, which left nine people homeless. “It was an issue of faulty wiring in the ceiling level between the basement and the first floor,” said Coan, who is unsure if the building had smoke detectors.
As word of Trevains’ death spread throughout the city, Brockton Mayor Linda Balzotti set a meeting with top safety officials in City Hall for tomorrow to discuss the fire.
In an interview today, Balzotti said she was unsure if the basement of the Melrose Avenue building had received an occupancy permit, but said her staff had stepped up code enforcement over the last year to end illegal basement and attic apartments.
Brockton’s Superintendent of Buildings James Casieri could not be reached for comment today. The building’s owner, Manuela Jamssens, also could not be reached for comment.
Bridget Norton Middleton, spokeswoman for Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz, said the fire was under investigation and declined comment when asked if the building was up to code.
“We’re going to await the autopsy results and then we’re going to review the physical evidence at the scene,” said Middleton, who expects that the autopsy will be completed sometime tomorrow.
“It’s devastating, I feel very badly for all involved. It’s just a very sad situation,” said Balzotti.
On Melrose Avenue, smoke and soot hovered around the charred two-story building in a wooded section of town they call “The Village.” Once a neighborhood for Irish and Lithuanian immigrants who worked in leather and shoe mills a few blocks away, the area was nearly silent yesterday – save for the few kids who played ball across the street at Tukis Park.
Warren Bennett, who lives across the street from the burnt building, said he did not know the residents of the structure but wondered how Trevains became trapped in the basement. “For her to perish in a basement, like that – it’s very tragic,” he said.
Across town, Howard Webber stood on Spring Street and recounted how much his friend Trevains had overcome in recent years. As recently as a few months ago, Webber said Trevains had lived at Father Bill’s & MainSpring homeless shelter -- where he currently resides.
Over the years, he said, the two had also lived outside in “Tent City,” a wooded section of the downtown where other homeless camped out.
“She was talkative, friendly; a real good person once you got to know her,” Webber said. “If you needed a cigarette or clothes or coffee money she’s give it to you.”
Steven A. Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Globe correspondent Matt Byrne contributed to this story.
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