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‘We held onto them tight.’ Mom, two children rescued from 2-alarm fire in South End

Boston firefighters rescued three people from a two-alarm fire at 68 West Newton St.
Boston firefighters rescued three people from a two-alarm fire at 68 West Newton St.Boston Fire Department

As flames and heavy smoke billowed from a South End brownstone Wednesday morning, Boston firefighters rescued a hearing-impaired mother and her two young children from their third-floor balcony, officials said.

The two-alarm blaze at 68 West Newton St. broke out shortly after 8 a.m. The woman and her children remained remarkably composed as firefighters carried them to safety, officials said.

At the scene, Shailing Santiago identified the rescued mother as her sister, Alicia Soto, 34. Soto and her two daughters, 6-year-old Annabelle and 6-month-old Amelia, were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital.

“The kids are fine,” Santiago said. “I think [Soto] just got some smoke in her lungs.”

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The fire was caused by an electrical issue and started on the first floor, officials said. No firefighters were injured. Nine people were displaced.

“I didn’t even have time to grab a mask or anything,” one resident said at the scene as he clutched his dog. “Grabbed her, covered her mouth, her nose, ran down outside.”

Another sister of Soto’s, Katherine Santiago, 26, said she went into the apartment after the fire, which was knocked down quickly, to salvage a few important items.

Alicia Soto, 34, with her two daughters, Annabelle, 6, and 6-month-old Amelia. They were rescued by Boston firefighters Wednesday morning.
Alicia Soto, 34, with her two daughters, Annabelle, 6, and 6-month-old Amelia. They were rescued by Boston firefighters Wednesday morning.Courtesy of Katherine Santiago)/Courtesy of Katherine Santiago

“It’s crazy. Everything is broken, everything’s so messy,” she said. “We got the baby food, the dog food … and some stuff that she needs, her car keys and her phone, stuff like that.”

Katherine Santiago said Soto had a visual smoke alarm that alerted her to the fire.

“She said all the lights were on, so she knew something was going on,” she said. “At least she was prepared.”

The family is in shock, she said.

“I’m speechless to be honest,” she said. “We’ve never been through something like this.”

Shailing Santiago said her sister and nieces will probably stay with her parents in Charlestown after they leave the hospital. She said she wondered what went through her sister’s mind as she was being rescued.

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“She has a cochlear implant, and because of her impairment she is not fluent in English,” she said. “It’s scary to be on the ladder and not be able to communicate with the people who are helping you. But everything worked out ... she’s safe, and that’s all that matters.”

Fire Lieutenant Michael Guilfoyle commended Soto’s composure during the rescue.

“She just didn’t miss a beat, not even crying,” he said. “They’re all very brave.”

Boston Fire Department public information Officer Sharon Galloway comforted a dog found inside the building with Deputy Chief Neal Mullane.
Boston Fire Department public information Officer Sharon Galloway comforted a dog found inside the building with Deputy Chief Neal Mullane.Lane Turner/Globe Staff
“They’re all very brave,'' a Boston fire official said of the three who were rescued.
“They’re all very brave,'' a Boston fire official said of the three who were rescued.Boston Fire Department

Video footage posted by Boston 25 News showed flames and heavy smoke billowing from the first-floor windows and firefighters carrying the two small children down a ladder to safety.

A woman who was later identified as Alicia Soto was  helped down the ladder.
A woman who was later identified as Alicia Soto was helped down the ladder.Boston Fire Department

Guilfoyle and firefighters Liam Pero, Stephen Flynn, and Joseph Garland carried out the rescue, officials said.

Guilfoyle said his crew did a “great job” coming to the aid of Soto and her children.

“They held onto us tight, and we held onto them tight,” he said.

Shailing Santiago set up a GoFundMe for Soto Wednesday evening with a goal of raising $8,000.

“This morning my sister was rescued by the Boston fire department from a fire that started on the first floor of her building,” the Santiago wrote on the fund-raising page.

As of 11:20 p.m., more than $10,000 had been raised, according to the page.

All of Soto’s belongings were damaged due to water and smoke, Santiago said.

“We were able to grab some of her belongings but her furniture was damaged as well as all the baby’s and daughters belongings,” she wrote. “My sister is deaf and has a cochlear implant that needs the charger replaced too. Anything helps.”

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Correspondent Andrew Stanton contributed to this story.


Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.