LYNN — Kesner Pierre was in the shower just after 7 a.m. Wednesday when he heard banging on the door of his second-floor apartment. When he opened it, there was no one there, just a wall of smoke.
“I went back to my room to get my wife out with my baby,” said Pierre, huddled in a nearby laundromat with his wife, who held their 2½-year-old daughter on her lap. “I don’t have a chance to get anything.”
Pierre said he could see flames shooting from the side of the three-story building at 49 Henry Ave. The three-alarm fire, which officials say probably started on an enclosed second-floor porch, displaced 20 residents from six apartments.
One neighbor, who helped to pull residents out of the home, was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, said Fire Deputy Chief Jack Barry. No other injuries were reported.
Calls about the fire began coming in at around 7:15 a.m., said police Lieutenant Richard Donnelly.
Officer Benjamin Chez was the first on scene. With smoke pouring out of the building, he raced inside to bang on doors. Officer David Hunter arrived less than a minute later, and he could see fire coming from the second floor, but he followed his fellow officer inside.
“They knocked on the first- and second-floor doors. They got people out,” Donnelly said. “They couldn’t make it to the third floor, the smoke was so bad.” Luckily, Donnelly said, there was no one on the third floor by that time.
Some residents had left on their own, Donnelly said. Some tried to get back inside the burning building to gather belongings, but the two officers forced them to leave.
“Who knows what could have happened?” he said. “All we know now is that no one got hurt, and they certainly did the right thing by doing what they did.”
Lynn firefighters and the office of State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan are investigating. Deputy Fire Chief William Murray said the fire climbed the outside of the building and spread into the space between the third-floor ceiling and the roof. Firefighters cut a hole in the roof to let the fire vent, Murray said, which stopped the blaze from spreading.
The American Red Cross assisted the six families with food, housing, and clothing. Spokeswoman Kat Powers said 16 of the residents are adults and four are children.
Swampscott, Saugus, and Salem firefighters assisted. The damage was estimated at $500,000.
Catalina Gaitan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.