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More than 30 displaced in East Boston blaze

Firefighters battled an eight-alarm blaze that started on Lexington Street Wednesday night. No residents were injured.

PHotos by Jessica Rinaldi/Globe STaff

Firefighters battled an eight-alarm blaze that started on Lexington Street Wednesday night. No residents were injured.

More than 30 people were displaced by a fast-moving eight-alarm fire that raged in East Boston Wednesday night, officials said.

No one was injured in the blaze that jumped from a sport utility vehicle to a 2½-story wood-frame house at 85 Lexington St., in the neighborhood’s Eagle Hill section, at 7:23 p.m.

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Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who was at the scene, said the fire was at four alarms when he was first notified but escalated swiftly, recalling the tragic nine-alarm Back Bay fire that killed two Boston firefighters March 26.

“It’s been a tough stretch for the Fire Department,” he said, as the smell of smoke hung in the air. “Thank God, it wasn’t late at night when people would be sleeping.”

State Representative Carlo Basile, who was also at the scene, said that about a dozen displaced families were sent to nearby Sacred Heart Parish, and three others planned to seek shelter with relatives.

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As the fire spread to two other homes, dozens of onlookers gathered near Lexington and Marion streets, where fire hoses snaked across the asphalt. Heavy smoke blew downhill toward Bennington Street, along with water that streamed across backyards and through alleyways.

Acting Fire Commissioner John Hasson said, however, that the night’s winds did not worsen the blaze. “If we had the wind like we had the past couple of weeks, this could have been a lot more serious.”

Hasson told reporters shortly before 9 p.m. that the fire was knocked down and firefighters were “chasing hot spots.”

He pointed out that firefighters were mindful of the blaze that killed Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr. and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy two weeks earlier. “Everybody’s on edge, so our operations are very deliberate.”

Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said investigators determined that the fire began in a Toyota Highlander parked next to 85 Lexington and spread to the residence. He said the fire appeared to have started in the vehicle’s engine.

The fire is not being treated as suspicious.

Hasson said one three-
decker and two two-family houses were involved, along with the SUV.

MacDonald said that about 33 people were displaced from the three buildings and that 85 Lexington will remain uninhabitable for months. Residents may be able to get back into 89 Lexington in a couple of days, while the wait for 83 Lexington “might be a little bit longer,” he said.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

A car parked in front of a fire hydrant had a hose run through the windows.

Total damages were estimated at $750,000.

MacDonald said no residents were hurt, but one firefighter was taken to a an area hospital with a minor injury. He said eight alarms were struck because the homes, like many in East Boston, are tightly spaced.

“The issue in East Boston is always close proximity of the houses [and] getting access” to the fire scene, he said.

MacDonald said firefighters from Engine 33, which Walsh and Kennedy rode to the fatal Beacon Street blaze, were among the roughly 160 firefighters who responded.

A 13-year-old Putnam Street resident said he was walking southwest on Lexington Street and saw the fire begin in the SUV. “It just, like, burst in flames,” he said.

Several neighbors described hearing what sounded like explosions. Alix Hallahan, 19, said she heard two large booms and saw flames quickly moving up the side of the house.

“As soon as I heard the first boom, I saw flames,” Hallahan said.

Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.
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