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Worcester residents mourn those killed in weekend fire as officials seek cause

WORCESTER — Neighbors, friends, and family mourned the loss Sunday of at least two neighbors who died in a devastating four-alarm blaze early Saturday, as investigators continued their probe into what sparked the deadly conflagration.

The fire left three people injured, gutted the six-family apartment building at 2 Gage St., and damaged two neighboring buildings, according to city officials.

Linda Prendiville, 63, who has lived in the neighborhood for 31 years, lamented the deaths Sunday. She was among the residents evacuated Saturday from a building next door by firefighters.

“It’s tragic,” Prendiville said. “I’m just thankful they got us out and [the fire] didn’t spread.”


The investigation into the fire is ongoing, according to Martin Dyer, the deputy chief of the Worcester Fire Department.

Officials could be seen working at the scene Sunday.

“We are going to be back at the scene tomorrow,” Dyer said in a brief phone interview late Sunday afternoon.

The fire is under investigation by Worcester fire officials, police, and the Worcester district attorney’s office.

City officials declined to answer questions Sunday, citing the ongoing investigation, and did not provide updates on the conditions of the three injured people.

The Worcester district attorney’s office directed questions to Worcester’s fire and police departments Sunday. The state’s Department of Fire Services office referred comment to Worcester officials.

On Saturday afternoon, crews worked to complete a full search of the Gage Street building, according to a city statement.

Officers told a Globe reporter at the Worcester Police Department dispatch that no one would be available to comment until Monday.

The multi-family building at 2 Gage St. is a total loss, said Robert Burgess, a spokesman for Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr., in an e-mail Sunday. The fire also damaged the neighboring buildings at 5 Eastern Ave. and 4 Gage St.


Nearly 70 firefighters responded to the blaze, which was reported at 3:31 a.m., city officials said in a statement Saturday. No firefighters were injured.

The Red Cross of Massachusetts was assisting 21 people impacted by the fire, providing help with temporary housing and other services, according to spokesman Jeff Hall.

A worker installed plywood over the first-floor windows of the building at 2 Gage St. Sunday, while a Worcester police cruiser was parked out front with its lights flashing.

Kitty Bousquet, 26, and Shannon Colbath, 28, stood outside on the corner of Eastern Ave and Normal Street and looked up at the burned building. They said their friend lived in one of the apartments and they hadn’t heard from him in a couple of days.

As they stood outside the home, Colbath called their friend’s phone number again. The phone rang for a while and then went to voicemail.

Bousquet said she contacted Worcester police but was not given any information.

“It is just so unlike him to drop off the face of the earth that I just do not believe that is what happened,” Bousquet said.

During the blaze, Brian Mcmanaman said that he was awake and looking at his phone and that his girlfriend was asleep on the building’s ground floor when their roommate banged on their door.

They found the living room full of black smoke, he said. Mcmanaman grabbed their two dogs as the couple made their way outside. Their three cats are missing and presumably perished in the fire.


“I could barely see, my eyes were burning,” Mcmanaman said.

On Sunday, friends and family were stepping forward to help some of the people displaced by the flames, including Kerri Butler of Peabody, who set up a GoFundMe page to support her brother-in-law, his wife, and the couple’s three children, who lost their apartment at 2 Gage St.

Her brother-in-law, Steve Uvanitte, suffered severe smoke inhalation during the blaze and was being treated Sunday at an intensive care unit at a local hospital, according to the GoFundMe page set up by Butler.

“While Steve was lucky enough to be rescued, sadly there were others who did not survive this devastating fire. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the victims,” the fund-raiser said.

The fire also drove out the residents of 5 Eastern Ave. Saturday, including Steven, a 26-year-old resident of the multi-family building.

Steven, who asked that only his first name be used, said he was asleep in his room with the door locked when his roommate smelled smoke.

“He kicked open my door and woke me up to get out of the building because of the fire,” Steven said in a phone interview. “It was visible from my window, that’s how large the flames were.”

A friend set up a GoFundMe to help with expenses, said Steven, who expressed gratitude to his roommate for his quick actions Saturday.

“I’ll thank him every day for it,” Steven said.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.