A fast-moving three-alarm fire with heavy flames greeted firefighters as they arrived at the triple-decker at 87 Madison Ave. just before midnight on Sept. 1, and it was a fire that claimed the lives of two women that lived in the second-floor apartment.
The women were apparently roommates in the apartment, and well-known in the neighborhood as they often sat out on the porch to greet neighbors.
“The building is a total loss and we had a roof collapse from the third to the second floors,” said Chief Tony Carli. “Fire crews were met with very heavy fire upon arrival. They tried to make their initial attack and had reports of people missing, but it was just too much and we had to pull back…We have decided to engineer the taking down of the home. If it was a newer building, it would have probably burnt down to the ground. Because it was older, it didn’t go as fast. They built them well back then…You never want to see this outcome. Everyone did as well as could be expected. It’s definitely not the outcome we wanted. It’s a tight, tight area and I’m can’t believe we kept the adjacent structures from catching. It’s that three or four minutes we don’t get notified, especially at that time of night, that makes a huge difference. If the fire can get up that quick, it’s hard to fight it.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said the City expresses its condolences on the loss of life.
“I want to express our sincerest condolences, as a community, to the friends and families of the victims and hope that they can find strength during this very difficult time,” he said. “I also want to acknowledge the bravery of our Everett firefighters, who tried valiantly to save the victims but the fire was just too intense…Due to their skill and professionalism they were able to contain the fire to the one property. We are all deeply saddened by this loss.”
Carli said a man and his wife and two daughters were able to escape through the back upon hearing smoke detectors, while a family on the first floor escaped through the front door when smelling smoke. The first 9-1-1 call came from a neighbor who heard breaking glass and thought someone was breaking into a home.
A firefighter suffered a minor knee injury and was treated on site.
Carli said the heavy fire combined with a housekeeping situation make it difficult for the initial responders to make a run at saving the two women.
“We made that first attempt as best as we could but just couldn’t get in there based on the heavy fire and living conditions,” he said. “There was a lot of combustible material in there. This wasn’t a hording situation, but definitely a housekeeping situation that prevented us from getting in. The fire really got a head-start on us.”
He said they made a secondary attempt later to get into the apartment, and it was then that they found the deceased women.
Since it was a total loss, there was no estimate of damage, Carli said, and it is still under investigation by the State Fire Marshal, Everett Fire and Everett Police so there is no determination of the cause.
Surrounding communities that responded included Chelsea, Boston, Medford and Somerville.