A massive six-alarm blaze erupted in a vacant Dorchester three-decker early Sunday morning and jumped to neighboring homes, leaving 17 people displaced and drawing 80 firefighters to battle the flames.
The fire caused $2.5 million worth of damage across all three buildings and generated enough heat to melt the siding on the three-deckers right behind 8 Marie St., where it started.
Two firefighters were sent to the hospital, one with an ankle injury and another for evaluation, according to Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald. No other injuries were reported and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.
The three-decker at 8 Marie St. was fully engulfed when Boston firefighters arrived at 4 a.m. for a report of what was then a two-alarm fire, said MacDonald at the scene Sunday morning. That building has been vacant for years due to renovations, he said.
The immediate concern of the first firefighters on the scene was whether people were inside the burning building.
“The firefighters are showing up here at 4 in the morning, the logic is that everyone is inside sleeping, so we don’t know this is vacant,” MacDonald said.
Most of the fire was burning at the rear of the building, MacDonald said, so firefighters entered the front following protocols, including checking every room twice.
“You have to look under beds, you have to look in closets . . . and then eventually somebody told them, ‘oh, that’s a vacant building,’ but you don’t know that when you show up,” he said.
The blaze spread to neighboring three-deckers at 6 Marie St., displacing five residents, and at 10 Marie St., displacing 12, according to MacDonald.
About 80 firefighters battled the blaze, MacDonald said. It was under control by 5:30 a.m., according to officials, but firefighters put out hot spots that flared up after that, extinguishing the fire by about 9:15 a.m.
District Fire Chief Jeff Whitman said at the scene that he wasn’t sure if the building at 8 Marie St. had working smoke detectors, but that detectors were going off in both of the neighboring homes.
“Luckily, nobody got hurt,” Whitman said.
Bryant Garnett was visiting his mother at 10 Marie St., with his nephew and brother-in-law, and it was a good thing, he said, as they were all up late playing a video game when the fire broke out.
His nephew heard crackling, he said, then saw light through the window, Garnett said, as he alerted everyone to the fire.
“We told everyone to get up and get out, and within minutes, the whole place just went up in flames,” said Garnett.
Garnett said it was a frightening experience.
“I don’t know how to feel right now,” Garnett said. “I’m just so numb, it’s like a movie, you don’t ever expect it to happen to you.”
Jennifer Coyne, who lives on nearby Mount Ida Road, was angered at what she called the city’s “negligence” in dealing with buildings left vacant for long periods of time.
Renovations have been going on for years, Coyne said, calling it a “chronic problem that buildings are left alone and the city doesn’t follow up with them.”
The Boston City Assessing Department’s records online list the property as having a “substandard” interior condition and an overall “poor” condition.
Calls to a person listed on the city records as the owner were not answered.
Abigail Wanamaker said she has lived on Robinson Street about nine years and the three-decker has been vacant that long.
“This is unacceptable,” she said, echoing Coyne’s frustration. “Any other neighborhood, Newton, Brookline, this would be unacceptable.”