Careless disposal of a cigarette caused a four-alarm fire that devastated a Dorchester three-decker early Sunday morning and left 13 people homeless, according to a fire official.
The fire started on the first-floor front porch, then rose to the second- and third-floor porches of the house on Colonial Avenue.
“It went up the front of the building engulfing all three porches and then spread into the house itself,” said Steve MacDonald, spokesman for the Boston Fire Department, who said a cigarette had caused the blaze.
Three firefighters who had minor injuries — related to the shoulder, knee, and ankle — extinguishing the fire were treated and released from area hospitals, Steve MacDonald said.
The fire was reported at 1:41 a.m., MacDonald said.
Two alarms were originally called, but the fire was upgraded to four alarms due to heavy fire in the front of the building.
“The whole front part of the house was on fire when we arrived on the scene,” MacDonald said. “We immediately ordered a second alarm. Because of the hard work of our firefighters, we went to four alarms. We needed to get enough manpower to extinguish it.”
The fire was put out in 30 minutes, but firefighters remained on the scene extinguishing hot spots and opening up walls until about 6 a.m., MacDonald said.
Residents of the apartment building evacuated safely with the help of smoke detectors, reported the Fire Department’s Twitter account. MacDonald said the Red Cross was on the scene assisting displaced residents.
Volunteers assisted eight adults and six children with recovery funds for food, clothing, jackets, and shoes, Kat Powers, communications director for Red Cross Massachusetts, said in an e-mail.
The MBTA provided a bus to keep people warm and dry while the Red Cross assessed their immediate needs.
Emergency shelter in a hotel was being provided. A dog from the residence was being treated by a veterinarian.
The Boston Fire Department chief estimated $350,000 in damages for the affected apartments, said MacDonald.
The vinyl siding of a neighboring building melted during the blaze, creating an additional $50,000 in damages.Anne Steele can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AnneMarieSteele. Catherine Cloutier can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcloutier.