Six people were taken to the hospital after a suspicious two-alarm fire sent smoke through a Braintree apartment building early Thursday, officials said.
The blaze started when an electric wheelchair caught fire in the apartment building’s first-floor foyer, filling the upper floors with heavy smoke, according to Braintree Fire Chief Jim O’Brien.
“It’s under investigation whether it was set on fire, or if there was an electrical problem with the cord,” O’Brien said in a telephone interview. “As of right now, it looks like it was set on fire.”
The state fire marshal’s office is investigating.
Firefighters responded to the fire at 287 Commercial St. at 6 a.m. Several residents were standing on their balconies to escape the smoke when firefighters arrived. They were brought to safety using a ground ladder, O’Brien said.
Those residents still inside were led out the front door once firefighters were able to gain entry to the three-story building.
Six people were transported to South Shore Hospital and Quincy Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. O’Brien said their injuries did not appear serious, and they were all expected to be released Thursday.
The American Red Cross is providing assistance to the 18 people displaced in the fire.
“They’re not going to be able to enter today,” O’Brien said. “When smoke attaches itself to something, it needs to be cleaned professionally because it’s so toxic.”
O’Brien said there “was heavy smoke damage” throughout the building, which had 16 units.
A damage estimate for the building has not yet been released.