BROCKTON — Residents living in the shadow of a wood-framed house on Somerset Place that fell into disrepair after it was left vacant for years woke early Monday morning to the sound of fire ravaging the once-majestic residence.
“My window is facing the house, and I saw the flames,” said Tracey Peete, 39. “It was just crazy, smoke everywhere.”
Deputy Fire Chief Brian Nardelli said officials were called to the 2½-story house at 16 Somerset Place at 3:50 a.m. They found heavy smoke and fire coming from the top two floors.
After conducting an initial search of the building and finding no one inside, firefighters fought the three-alarm blaze from the outside with water lines because the heat was so strong.
“The fire was already coming through the roof when they arrived on scene,” Nardelli said. “There was a heavy amount of fire in the actual structure.”
The fire joins a list of more than a dozen similar fires in abandoned buildings in the South Shore area recently, mostly occurring during the early morning, increasing concern among fire officials that the incidents may be the work of an arsonist.
Nardelli said the cause of the fire remains under investigation. He could not say whether it was suspicious or whether there was evidence of squatters inside. “I don’t think they can rule anything out,” he said.
The state fire marshal’s office is also looking into the cause of the blaze.
The house was vacant and empty, Nardelli said. “The fire was burning in the actual structure, and that’s probably why it went so long.,” No injuries were reported.
Peete said she believes the fire was deliberately set.
“There’s no gas or electricity going in that house, so that’s why I think it’s arson,” she said. “This is an abandoned place.”
She said people hang out in front of the house, but she has never seen anyone go inside.
A local police officer stopped by the house Monday evening and took several pictures of the gutted structure.
He said he grew up in the house, and he reminisced about jumping from a second-story window onto a pile of snow after the Blizzard of ’78.
Another neighbor, Charllene Nunes, 17, said she was confused when she saw the fire because “nobody lives there.”
“The water the firefighters used went into my house, messed up the sofa,” she said. “At 4, I woke up and saw the fire. I was scared because it could have jumped to my house . . . because they’re really close.”
Investigators have not said how many of the recent fires they have suspected to be arson or whether they are related, but the Globe has counted as many as 20 suspicious, similar fires in the region.
Investigators are asking anyone who saw the Brockton fire in its earliest stages or has other information that could help them determine the cause to contact the Brockton Fire or Police departments or the statewide arson hotline at 800-682-9229.