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Chelsea fire damages several homes

CHELSEA — Smoke hung in the hot air on Arlington Street in Chelsea on Sunday night after a five-alarm fire ripped through six homes.

One firefighter was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital for smoke inhalation, said Robert Houghton, acting chief of the Chelsea Fire Department. The extent of damage was not known, Houghton said, but it was likely that 253 and 255 Arlington Street were a total loss.

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“That’s my house,” said Kazem Sabet, 54, said of 255 Arlington, which he and his family inherited when his mother, Atiat, died about three years ago.

Sabet’s sister Vivian Cuevas lived in the home with her three sons, ages 9, 8, and 6, and her 5-year-old daughter.

“The kids are wonderful, thank God,” said Sabet’s other sister, Nevin Mahmoud. “It’s something for them to talk about when they go back to school.”

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Mahmoud stood outside clutching her sister’s cat, Hazel, who was shaking in her arms with wide eyes.

“It’s terrible,” Mahmoud said.

Cuevas and her children were in the home watching TV when the fire started, said Mahmoud, who lives around the corner. Neighbors alerted Cuevas and her children of the fire.

Sabet said he was driving from North Andover to see his sister when he heard the house was on fire.

“I was there within seconds,” he said, recalling that all he could see was flames.

Sabet said his mother bought the house in 1970. According to city records, the two-story home was built in 1900.

The family is going to wait to hear from their insurance company and then decide what to do.

“Right now our mind is elsewhere,” Sabet said.

The American Red Cross was on scene to assist. It was not immediately clear how many people were affected by the fire. A woman sat outside one of the burned homes with a purple towel on her lap and a look of distress on her face.

The street was crowded with firefighters from Chelsea and Revere who occasionally sprayed the houses down with water.

Houghton said the fire took 45 minutes to an hour to extinguish. The Chelsea Fire Department had five ladders on scene and was assisted by eight to 10 towns.

Initially, there was a report of a child trapped in one of the homes, Houghton said, but when firefighters arrived everyone was out.

Maryann Laurenza said she was driving over the Tobin Bridge from Boston when she saw the fire just after 4 p.m. Out of curiosity, she followed the sight to the scene of the fire.

“You could see the orange flames” from the bridge, she said. At one point, Laurenza, 43, of Everett, thought a tree was on fire too.

Luz Ruiz, a 15-year-old who lives in Chelsea, went to the scene because she thought it was her friend’s home on fire.

“I was scared,” she said. Her friend’s home was across the street, safe from the blaze, she said.

Houghton said the dry weather conditions and wood-frame homes created a “tinder box.”

The cause of the fire and its origin were not known. Houghton said it was too early in the investigation to know if arson was a possibility.

The homes on Arlington Street were right next to the Chelsea Commuter Rail Station on the Newburyport/Rockport Line. The MBTA reported delays due to the fire.

Sabet was distraught over the loss of his childhood home.

“So much is gone,” he said with bloodshot eyes. “So much of my life is gone.”

But Sabet said he was proud to have the Chelsea fire department on scene.

“Chelsea fire department is one of the best I’ve seen in my life,” said Sabet, who now lives in North Andover.

Melissa Hanson can be reached at melissa.hanson@globe.com or on Twitter @Melissa__Hanson.
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