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About 100 people displaced by 7-alarm Fenway blaze

Boston firefighters responded to Hemenway Street Saturday afternoon.
Boston firefighters responded to Hemenway Street Saturday afternoon. (John Tlumacki/Globe staff)

Battling heavy rain and shifting winds, more than 100 Boston firefighters fought to contain a seven-alarm blaze that injured 11 people at a Fenway apartment building Saturday afternoon rescuing several people, officials said.

Fire crews used ground ladders to rescue people from 104 Hemenway St., which was destroyed by the fast-moving fire that sent roaring flames and thick smoke into the gray autumn sky.

The fire also displaced nearly 100 people, mostly students from Berklee College of Music, Emerson College, and Northeastern University who lived in the five-story building, officials said.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh said the city is working with the colleges to help students find new housing.

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“We’ll make sure everyone is housed in the near future,” Walsh said at an early evening press conference held about a block from the scene.

“It’s a very scary fire here,” he said.

Northeastern University officials issued a statement saying that they are making plans to place students affected by the fire in campus housing. Berklee officials in a statement said they are contacting students living in 98 and 104 Hemenway St. to ensure they have accommodations. Emerson College officials could not be reached for comment.

Firefighters responded at 3:17 p.m. to an alarm at the five-story building, where heavy fire was already underway on the second floor, Fire Commissioner Joe Finn said.

The roof soon collapsed and conditions rapidly deteriorated, forcing firefighters out of the structure shortly before 4 p.m.

“It really traveled pretty fast,” Finn said, addressing reporters at the scene. “It got ahead of us.”

Fire crews were hampered by a nor’easter that swept through Boston Saturday.

“It’s very difficult. The winds keep pushing the [smoke] one way, and then the other,” Finn said.

A pair of firefighters were transported to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, he said. Two other firefighters were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, as well as six residents of the apartment building and an elderly neighbor, said Marc Sanders, a Fire Department spokesman.

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The fire, which quickly grew to multiple alarms, ripped through the brick building, which appeared to be a total loss with damages estimated in the millions of dollars, Finn said.

City property records show the building is owned by Bobson Residential LLC and has an assessed value of $4.2 million.

In a statement Saturday night, the Copley Group, which manages the property, said it is working with fire officials to determine how the fire started.

“Our priority is the safety of our tenants and ensuring that they have temporary housing until we have an opportunity to assess the building,” the statement said.

The fire appears to have originated on the second floor and the cause is under investigation, but is not considered suspicious, Finn said.

He blamed a “lack of sprinklers” for difficulty fighting the fire though he said smoke detectors were working.

At least a half-dozen fire trucks lined Hemenway Street. Ladder trucks were extended to the top of the building. At times, as many as 10 hoses shot water inside the building.

Jade Sal, 20, said she was among the residents rescued.

Sal said she and several neighbors were helped through a window from her third-floor apartment.

When Sal first noticed the fire, she tried to run down the stairs and escape outside, but was blocked by smoke.

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“There was smoke coming from both staircases going down,” said Sal, as she watched the scene from the sidewalk, wrapped in a firefighter’s jacket.

Three nearby apartment buildings at 98, 102, and 108 Hemenway St. were also evacuated Saturday, and it was unclear when those residents — who are also mostly students — will be able to return, Sanders said.

The fire at 104 Hemenway St. was able to spread into the top floor of 108 Hemenway, he said.

Flames could be seen on the roof of the Hemenway Street building Saturday afternoon.
Flames could be seen on the roof of the Hemenway Street building Saturday afternoon. (Michael Swensen for The Boston Globe)
Boston firefighters responded to a large apartment complex at  104 Hemenway St. during heavy wind and rain Saturday.
Boston firefighters responded to a large apartment complex at 104 Hemenway St. during heavy wind and rain Saturday.(John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
 An exhausted firefighter took a breather at the scene.
An exhausted firefighter took a breather at the scene.(John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
Garri Paul cried as she was handed her dog, Jax, by a firefighter who rescued him inside her burning apartment.
Garri Paul cried as she was handed her dog, Jax, by a firefighter who rescued him inside her burning apartment. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
Firefighters climbed aerial ladders at the front of the building.
Firefighters climbed aerial ladders at the front of the building.(John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
 A firefighter smashed a fifth-floor window.
A firefighter smashed a fifth-floor window. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
A firefighter took off his helmet at the scene.
A firefighter took off his helmet at the scene. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
A resident overcome with emotion stood under an umbrella.
A resident overcome with emotion stood under an umbrella. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)

Alana Levene can be reached at alana.levene@globe.com. John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.