REVERE — Arthur Fitzmeyer had already checked in with his roommate, George, and settled into bed Saturday night when he smelled the smoke.
He jumped up and began to yell for his friend but got no answer. Soon, he could barely breathe as acrid smoke filled the room.
“I just kept calling on his name, and then the smoke just drove me out,” Fitzmeyer said Sunday afternoon, his eyes damp with tears.
George Maddox, 64, had taken
Neighbors knew the two veterans, Georgie and Artie, were always together, both well-mannered and affable.
But as the fire roared, Fitzmeyer could not find Maddox.
Authorities said a 64-year-old man died in the fire Saturday night at 190 Campbell Ave., but they did not identify him. Fitzmeyer and neighbors said it was Maddox, a medic in the Vietnam War whose selflessness extended well beyond the battlefront.
The fire started on the third floor, where Fitzmeyer and Maddox lived, about 8:45 p.m., Revere Fire Chief Gene Doherty said. Fitzmeyer, 62, said Sunday that he did not know how the fire started, and Doherty said the causes did not appear suspicious, though authorities were investigating.
Three Revere firefighters, a MassPort firefighter, a Revere police officer, and a person who was in the building were treated at the hospital for injuries sustained in the blaze. Alarms were working when firefighters arrived, Doherty said, and the house appeared to be up to code.
The wood-frame home, which was built in 1900 according to property records, sits just blocks away from Revere Beach. On Sunday morning, workmen covered first-floor windows with plywood.
Fitzmeyer arrived later in the day, wondering if any of his possessions could be salvaged. He said Maddox was unmarried and had no children. The two became friends through the VA several years ago.
When Fitzmeyer’s wife died, he said, he planned to move to a homeless shelter for veterans, but Maddox intervened.
“George said the hell with you, you’re coming with me,” Fitzmeyer said.
Maddox was a medic in Vietnam and received multiple medals for his service, according to his roommate.
“He’s seen more carnage in one day than a person would see in a lifetime,” Fitzmeyer said.
About five years ago, when Fitzmeyer had a brain aneurysm and doctors operated, Maddox was there to help with the healing.
“He taught me how to pronounce my words and read and everything,” Fitzmeyer said.
A former building manager, Maddox was retired, and Fitzmeyer said he spent his time watching television (he would never miss a Patriots game), playing cards, and reading.
“He was one guy who would help anybody out in any kind of situation,” Fitzmeyer said.
As Fitzmeyer talked, workers from a cleanup company shuttled vinyl siding, broken windows, and other detritus into trailers. The four-story home’s roof had collapsed, and the gutters were darkened with char.
Neighbors looked on, recalling the frightening scene from the night before.
Elkin Restrepo, 46, was playing poker in his yard when he smelled smoke. At first, he said, he thought it was just a barbecue. Then his daughter saw smoke in the window of 190 Campbell Ave. and called 911.
“The fire went for almost four hours,” Restrepo said.
Claudia Dias, 40, said she heard fire alarms going off around 9:15 p.m.
“When I looked out my window, you could see the flames from the fourth floor coming out the back,” she said.
The smoke turned from white to thick black, Dias said. Emergency responders cut power to the section of Campbell Street around the burning building.
“It was a mess,” said Brooke Cooper, 34. “It would seem to come down for a little bit, then [burn] right back.”
A resident of the building who would give only his first name, Morad, said he returned home shortly after 10 p.m. when the fire had consumed the top floors.
“There was smoke everywhere. You could smell it even from the T station, which is five blocks away maybe,” Morad said.
A neighbor brought displaced residents over to the front of her house, where the Red Cross helped get them hotel rooms and food. Witnesses said everyone appeared shaken, and Fitzmeyer was crying on the sidewalk.
Susan Foti, 66, said by the time she reached the scene, flames were raging and Fitzmeyer was despondent.
“Artie got out,” she said, “and I spent all night with him because he was insistent on trying to go back in the house to go find Georgie.”