Cambridge 4-alarm fire strikes two residences in Central Square

CAMBRIDGE — Lisa Hayles was “over the moon’’ Wednesday when she passed papers for a condo in Central Square, a purchase that transformed her from a renter into a property owner for the first time in her life.

Now, Hayles has no place to call her home.

Hayles is one of about 60 people displaced by a four-alarm fire early Thursday that heavily damaged three multi-unit residential buildings in Central Square, including her condo at 172-174 Auburn St. and the property where the fire apparently started, 22-24 Magazine St. The fire also damaged 166-168 Auburn St., officials said.


“This is my first home; I just bought it yesterday, closed yesterday, was over the moon,’’ Hayles, 49, said after touring her condo. “We just walked through with a firefighter as an escort. It’s not completely destroyed, but it’s smoke damage, water damage, the windows are all damaged.”

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Still, the Toronto native said, her second-floor unit fared better than a neighbor’s.

“The unit beside mine is completely destroyed; you can see the guts and everything’s falling apart,’’ she said. “Frankly, though I’m shocked, I’ll be fine I think. I have insurance.”

Hayles said she had planned to move in on Dec. 16, but she now must ask her current landlord to let her stay for the foreseeable future. She was relieved that no one was injured.

“I wasn’t in there, nobody got hurt from what I understand, and these things can be repaired,’’ she said. “It’s mainly an inconvenience, to be honest.”


Firefighters arrived shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday to find heavy fire in the rear of two four-story wood-frame buildings on Magazine Street, acting Cambridge fire Chief Gerard Mahoney said at the scene around 2:30 a.m.

There were no injuries to residents or the dozens of firefighters who were on the scene for more than two hours in the cold. The heavily residential neighborhood is a few blocks from Massachusetts Avenue.

Residents of the Magazine Street buildings made it out safely, Mahoney said. In addition, two or three neighboring buildings were evacuated, he said.

About 65 firefighters responded to the fire, offering mutual aid from Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Somerville, and Watertown.

“Fire companies made a very aggressive attack,” he said.


The preliminary investigation suggests the blaze started on a second-floor rear porch of 22-24 Magazine St., Mahoney wrote in an e-mail Thursday. The cause of the fire is under investigation, he said.

The fire swept through all four floors of the structure where it started, Mahoney said. There was damage to the roof and the property also had significant water damage, in part because of its functioning sprinkler system.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

“It’s very helpful in containing the fire,” he said of the sprinklers.

On Thursday morning, some residents of the damaged buildings retrieved what they could.

Emily Mason-Osann loaded her car with items from her home.
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Emily Mason-Osann loaded her car with items from her home.

Hayles went with her real estate agent and checked on her condo unit. They went inside and came out with a congratulatory bouquet of flowers that Hayles had been given as a housewarming gift. Somehow, the flowers survived the ordeal and appeared to be unscathed.

Emily Mason-Osann ventured past the yellow police tape that stretched the length of the sidewalk in front of her apartment on Auburn Street and began the task of gathering up her belongings and loading them into a Toyota RAV4 parked out front.

She said she’d been asleep when police rang her doorbell to alert her of the fire.

“That woke us up,” she said, as she stood solemnly beside a pile of her possessions on the sidewalk.

Just around the corner, some residents of 22-24 Magazine St. stood outside of the four-story apartment building with bags and suitcases in their hands, while others gathered across the street, quietly chatting amongst themselves and trying to make sense of what happened. Several declined to be interviewed but said they were relieved that no one was hurt.

A Cambridge firefighter assisted a woman.
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
A Cambridge firefighter assisted a woman.

Jacobe Huet, a graduate student studying architecture at Harvard University, is one of five grad students who share an apartment on the top floor of 22 Magazine St. She said she was fast asleep when people began evacuating.

“My roommate came in and got me,” she said. “I’m so glad she did. I don’t know what would have happened.”

The building at 22-24 Magazine St. is owned by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and in a statement, the college said about 50 people — including some from the MIT community — lived in the 12-unit residence. “MIT staff are working to secure alternative housing for affected residents as quickly as possible, and assessing the extent of the damage and the needed repairs,’’ the statement said.

John R. Ellement and Felicia Gans of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@
. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald. Emily Sweeney can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.