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Fire in Waltham leaves 20 homeless

A three-decker on Ash Street in Waltham burned early Wednesday.

Curtis Bailey/

A three-decker on Ash Street in Waltham burned early Wednesday.

Seven people were taken to the hospital, and about 20 were displaced when a four-alarm fire destroyed a residential building early Wednesday in Waltham.

Firefighters were called to the three-family home at 145 Ash St. at 2:17 a.m., said a Waltham Fire Department spokesman, Lieutenant Scott Perry.

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The crews arrived to find “heavy fire and smoke” coming from the upper floors, Perry said, and were told some people might still be in the building.

Once firefighters swept the building and determined it was clear, they fought the fire from the outside, Perry said. The blaze, contained to the upper two floors of the three-story building, intensified after the search teams exited, he said. A total of 65 firefighters battled the fire.

“People on the third floor were screaming, ‘Fire! Fire!’ and ‘Help, help, I can’t breathe!’ ” said Sandra Menjivar, 37, as she stood in pajamas near a Red Cross truck Wednesday. She, her boyfriend, their 7-year-old son, Danny, and 7-month-old son, Edwin, lost everything in their second-floor residence, she said.

“I’m devastated because we don’t have anything,” Menjivar said. “This is a nightmare.”

She said she awoke to blaring smoke detectors and fled down the stairs with her family, the smoke close behind. The Red Cross was to put the family up in a hotel for a couple of nights, she said.

Orlando Hernandez, 25, ran out of the building without a shirt or shoes. He also left behind his passport, his only form of identification.

“I don’t know how to feel,” he said. “All my stuff is inside. All gone.”

Seven people were taken to hospitals with smoke-related injuries, Perry said. Information on the severity of their injuries was not immediately available. Waltham Fire Chief Paul Ciccone said one firefighter sustained burns on his head but remained on duty.

“It was a serious fire, but in the metro Boston area, we’ve had a lot of these lately,” Ciccone said. The firefighters “performed incredibly, as usual.”

He said about 25 firefighters from nearby communities joined approximately 40 Waltham firefighters in controlling the blaze by about 6 a.m. It was extinguished about an hour later.

Neighbor Lenette DaSilva handed out food and drinks as those displaced by the fire sat in folding chairs in her yard. She said it was blazing so strongly when she woke up, she had to close her windows to keep out the heavy smoke.

“They were all just sleeping and then there was a fire,” she said. “This situation is the saddest.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Ciccone said he hoped the building would be torn down Thursday.

Claire McNeill can be reached at
Kiera Blessing can be reached at
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