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‘I have no clue man, no idea.’ Residents displaced by Fenway fire wonder where they’ll go

A resident driven out of her apartment wore a firefighters’ coat as she was overcome with emotion.
A resident driven out of her apartment wore a firefighters’ coat as she was overcome with emotion.(John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)

Juan Flores was out running errands on Saturday afternoon when he learned about a large fire in his Fenway neighborhood.

Avoid the area around Hemenway Street, Flores read in a posting in an online friend group.

“I was like wait, I live there — what the hell,” Flores, 30, said Saturday night as he looked at the charred apartment building at 104 Hemenway St., where he moved in September.

The seven-alarm fire destroyed the five-story building Saturday afternoon, displacing up to 100 residents. Many were students at nearby Berklee College of Music, Emerson College and Northeastern University, officials said.

Flores, who graduated from Berklee in the summer, is among the many facing an uncertain future.

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His roommate grabbed whatever belongings he could — slippers, a guitar, a laptop — and jetted for the door, Flores said.

But Flores wasn’t home to grab any of his items. For the time being, Flores plans to stay with friends. But he doesn’t yet know what he’ll do if he can’t return to the apartment.

“I have no clue man, no idea,” he said.

Another resident said he also is unsure of the next step.

The student, a junior at Berklee who asked that his name not be used, said he was eating lunch in his apartment when he noticed an odd smell permeating the air.

“I just thought it was a gas leak or something . . . then we looked out the window and there was smoke everywhere,” he said in a phone interview Saturday night. “I grabbed my phone and keys thinking I’d be back in five minutes.”

As residents left the building, he realized he would be outside for longer than five minutes.

“I wish I could of grabbed one of my backpacks or one of my guitars,” he said, adding that the timing couldn’t be worse — Berklee students were prepping for midterms. “If [my music gear] is all water damaged, there is no way it is going to work.”

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A number of music students who lived in the building had expensive music gear, he said.

“Most of those rooms are like little private studios,” he said. “Some people have spent their life savings on this gear.”

The fire also impacted students living in nearby buildings.

A Berklee dormitory at 98 Hemenway St. was evacuated and students were not allowed to return Saturday evening, the college said in a statement.

Gus Lee, an 18-year-old freshman at Northeastern University, was in his dorm room across the street from the building fire when he smelled a subtle waft of smoke. He initially thought it was okay to remain in his room, but then he heard fire alarms go off.

“At that point, I said, ‘Oh, I should go,’” he said as he made his way back to his dorm Saturday evening.

Officials directed students in the residence hall to go to the basement, and out into an alley, Lee said.

“The whole building and mostly everything around it was smokey,” he said. “It was also super windy. There were waves of smoke.”

Northeastern officials were working near the scene Saturday to accommodate students who were displaced. In a statement, Berklee officials said they were contacting students who lived in the building. Emerson College officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Saturday night.

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At the scene late Saturday night, a firefighter on a ladder was still hosing down the building.

Fire crews were going to remain on the scene throughout the night, hitting hotpots, said Marc Sanders, a fire department spokesman.

Monica Grady, a Boston Conservatory student, stopped to watch as she walked to her Symphony Road home with grocery bags. She was down the street at the Museum of Fine Arts when the fire broke out, she said.

“It’s very sobering,” she said. “This could have as easily happened to my apartment.”


Alejandro Serrano can be reached at alejandro.serrano@globe.com.