Jesse Fifield and his girlfriend left their Beacon Street home Wednesday with little more than the clothes on their backs and their cat when they saw smoke pouring from the building next door and the approaching fire engines.
“I thought it was going to be something where I went outside for a time and went right back in,” Fifield said five days later from his parents’ house in Maine.
Fifield, 28, has yet to return to the brick row house directly next to 298 Beacon St., the site of the fatal fire that took the lives of two Boston firefighters and injured more than a dozen others. No one seems to know for sure when Fifield or his neighbors in 296, 298, and 300 Beacon St. will be able to return home.
As the city prepares to say its final farewells to Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr. and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, residents occupying some 20 units in the three buildings are looking for places to stay.
“We’re devastated about the fireman,” said one of Fifield’s neighbors. “It’s stressful. It’s been a hardship, but on the other hand, I’m very thankful that we’re alive.”
Kat Powers, spokeswoman of the American Red Cross of Massachusetts, said the number of people it has helped has grown from two adults since Wednesday’s fire to eight. Some are receiving emergency shelter, “which in this case is a hotel stay,” Powers said. Others are receiving food and clothing.
“This was a very large response; this was a very emotionally charged response,” Powers said.
The number of people seeking aid could grow, Powers said. The fire started about 2:45 p.m. while a number of people were at work, so instead of going home at the end of the day, they went and stayed with friends and family, she said.
Residents of 296 Beacon said the landlord notified them last week that their leases were being terminated because it is unclear how long it will take to make the building livable again. According to city property records, the property has at least eight units and is owned by Oliver Realty Limited Partnership, which could not be reached for comment Monday.
“They said they were going to refund our security deposit and last month’s rent, so that’s not the biggest issue for us,” Fifield said. “But not being able to get our stuff and seeing what type of shape it’s in” is the issue, he said.
Fifield’s roommate was at work when the fire started last week, and he said he and his girlfriend “literally just grabbed our phones, wallets and our cat,” so their furniture, clothes, computers, and other belongings remain in the two-bedroom, $2,000-a-month apartment.
“She works at Stephanie’s on Newbury and they have a very specific uniform, and she’s been borrowing it,” he said.
The water used to extinguish the blaze at 298 Beacon St. damaged the adjacent buildings, city officials said.
“Typically with this kind of water damage, first they go in and do an initial inspection and then they have to hire an electrician,” said Kate Norton, spokeswoman for Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
Inspectors have given the OK for an electrician to go into 300 Beacon St. and test the building’s electrical system, but Norton said structural concerns are keeping inspectors out of 296 Beacon. The remains of 298 Beacon must be shored up before inspectors can enter the neighboring building, she said.Akilah Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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