Five-alarm blaze roars through East Boston structure

Firefighters put out a five-alarm fire at 108 Chelsea St. in East Boston.
Firefighters put out a five-alarm fire at 108 Chelsea St. in East Boston.(Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff)

Firefighters battled a five-alarm blaze at an apartment building next to the iconic Santarpio’s Pizza restaurant in East Boston on Friday night that left 12 people displaced, officials said.

The fire at the three-story structure at 107-109 Chelsea St. began at about 7:20 p.m. and was knocked down by 8 p.m., according to Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald. The blaze spread to the rear of 105 Chelsea St. and to the side of Santarpio’s, which was evacuated and closed for the night, MacDonald said.

Upon arrival, firefighters found the rear porches of the apartment building were completely engulfed in flames, and they collapsed within 10 minutes, he said.


Nine adults and three children were displaced, the fire spokesman said, and of the six apartments in the duplex, two were vacant. Damages were estimated at $730,000.

MacDonald said no injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Four nearby structures were evacuated in the blaze, he said. Santarpio’s received superficial destruction to its exterior, but the inside remained undamaged, he said.

MacDonald said that the mere five feet of space between the historically close East Boston buildings made containing and extinguishing the fire a difficult task.

“The firefighters did a tremendous job,” he said.

He said the night’s hot temperatures also forced a fifth alarm to be sounded.

Laura Chadwell, 30, of East Boston, was about to have dinner with friends at Santarpio’s when another customer alerted them of the fire. Chadwell said she did not hear or smell anything, but saw flames when she looked out the windows.

“It escalated very quickly. Everyone seemed to make it out safely and calmly,” she said. “We felt lucky to get out of there.”

Chadwell and her friends fled the building and her husband, who is a Boston firefighter, left the group to help out.


Samantha Gross can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross.