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Historic Marblehead yacht club damaged by fire

A historic Marblehead yacht club was severely damaged by a three-alarm fire that swept through its upper floors Thursday night, officials said.

Marblehead firefighters received reports of smoke inside the clubhouse of Eastern Yacht Club on Foster Street at 11:56 p.m., Captain Michael Porter said by phone Friday.

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Upon arrival, firefighters saw flames traveling from the second floor through the roof of the building. The fire was contained to the attic and several rooms on the third floor, though not without some difficulty.

“In terms of access, it’s a very large building, and to get the initial attack lines up to the attic, we had to go through a central staircase, up a big porch, up a winding staircase, and then down a 60- or 70-foot hallway,” Porter said.

The building also contained several void spaces between decorative walls that the sprinkler system could not reach. Firefighters had to cut open the walls, and later the ceiling, to reach them.

The Peabody Fire Department provided the firefighters with additional bottles of oxygen needed to enter the smoky rooms.

“The guys took a beating,” Porter said. “Imagine huffing up all those stairs with only a certain amount of time, swinging an ax, and having to come back down for another bottle of oxygen.”

A rehab unit and several ambulances also stood by in case of injuries, although there were none.

The fire was extinguished within several hours. Firefighters remained on scene until approximately 5 a.m., Porter said.

Initial investigations by the Marblehead Fire Department, the state fire marshal’s office, and the city’s wiring inspector indicate that the fire was caused by an electrical problem in the wiring system connected to chandeliers on the second floor, Porter said.

The clubhouse, which was built in 1881 and houses historic paintings and artifacts, sustained significant water damage from the building’s sprinkler system and water used by firefighters. There was no cost estimate for the damage Friday.

Eastern Yacht Club officials assembled a team to remove, clean, and restore those items, according to a statement on the club’s website.

The club’s waterfront facilities and pool were open Friday, though the rest of the clubhouse remained closed.

Firefighters from neighboring towns assisted in the response, including Swampscott, Salem, Lynn, Beverly, Lynnfield, and Nahant, Porter said.

Catalina Gaitan can be reached at catalina.gaitan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @catalina_gaitan.
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