The fire started just before 7 a.m. Friday with smoke and the sounding of alarms inside a Charlestown building that housed six apartments and a laundromat that was featured in Ben Affleck’s movie “The Town.”
But soon after emergency crews arrived at the smoke-filled building on Bunker Hill Street, flames erupted into the arctic air and morphed into a six-alarm blaze that had firefighters simultaneously struggling against fire and ice.
“Just everything’s frozen,” said Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn. “It’s much more challenging when it’s that cold because everything freezes too fast.”
The temperature in Boston was 4 degrees when the fire was discovered around 6:45 a.m., according to the National Weather Service, and the frigid temperatures froze water lines, formed icicles on ladders, and coated the street with ice.
Smoke wafted toward the Bunker Hill Monument standing above the fire scene and the plume was visible from the Tobin Bridge. Heavy fire was reported on several floors.
The fire displaced about 25 people from the Bunker Hill Street building and an adjacent residence on Monument Street, Finn said. One firefighter was taken from the scene after suffering a slip-and-fall injury, but no civilians were hurt, he said. Officials estimated the fire caused $2 million in damage.
Julie deJesus, 28, said she escaped her third-floor apartment wearing her coat, pajamas, and slippers.
“I’m still pretty emotional about losing everything,” said deJesus, who works in the admissions office at Northeastern University.
Business partners Max Liu and Fenny Chen were driving to their laundromat from Quincy when they learned of the fire. The friends, who are immigrants from Fujian, China, purchased Monument Laundromat two years ago and ran the business 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I saw the smoke come up. Big, big smoke,” said Liu, 37. “I said, ‘Uh oh. That’s a big, big problem.’ ”
Chen said many customers recognize the laundromat from scenes in “The Town” in which Affleck’s character introduces himself to his love interest.
“A lot of people come in and say, ‘Oh it’s in the movie. I saw the movie “The Town,” ’ ” said Chen, 37. “It’s famous.”
She said she doesn’t know where her customers will turn now.
“I have no idea,” she said. “I don’t want to think about it.”
Maureen McGlame of the North End said she worried about the laundromat staff. She stopped by the police station in Charlestown, where the city gathered people who were displaced, to check on a laundromat employee.
More than 100 firefighters helped extinguish the blaze, which smoldered after the roof caved in about one to two hours into the operation, Finn said. The neighboring building on Monument Street had smoke and water damage.
“We can’t put anybody in the building,” Finn said. “There’s a lot of smoldering going on underneath.”
Early in the fire, one firefighter accidentally triggered her “mayday” alarm, said department spokesman Steve MacDonald, but dispatchers quickly determined everyone was safe.
The fire appears to have started on the first floor, though the investigation into the cause and origin of the blaze is in its early stages, Finn said.
City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina met with some people who lost their homes.
He said most were planning to stay with relatives, but one couple was looking for housing from the American Red Cross.
“It’s sad. It’s the coldest day,” LaMattina said. “Hopefully, people will be generous near the holidays.”
Tim Nickerson said he was forced out from his third-floor apartment.
He said he was awake when the fire alarms started sounding in the building, followed moments later by an neighbor who knocked on his door and warned of the fire.
“I grabbed what I could. My keys. My phone. My wallet,’’ said Nickerson. “And then I ran out.’’