Monday’s late afternoon blaze causes heavy damage; frigid weather conditions a challenge for Malden Fire; fortunately, no one reported hurt
A fast-moving, three-alarm fire ripped through the upper floor residential portion of a mixed-use building in the heart of Oak Grove Square late Monday afternoon, causing heavy damage to the structure. The only positive news to report on the day was no one was injured as a result of the blaze, neither residents nor employees of the street-level business nor firefighters battling the fire.
According to reports, 12 residents of five of the six apartments located in the top two floors of the building were displaced as a result of the blaze, with one of the units believed to be vacant at the time of the fire. Apparently, about half of those residents were home on Monday, but were evacuated quickly without incident as firefighters began to arrive. The building includes six apartment units in the two floors above the street-level business, Oak Grove Laundry Center, which has an exceptionally large, well-known sign above its entrance.
The building is located at the major Malden intersection of Grove, Glenwood, Washington and Winter Streets directly across the street from the Malden Oak Grove MBTA Station, which is the last stop on the northern end of the Orange Line.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation by the Malden Fire Investigation Unit and State Fire Marshal’s Office at The Advocate’s press deadline.
According to reports, the fire began in the rear of the three-story building at 1 Grove St., at about 5:00 p.m. Malden Fire Chief William Sullivan said the fire quickly spread to the attic, resulting in a second alarm being called shortly after firefighters from the Central, West Side and East Side Fire Stations arrived. A third alarm was called less than 30 minutes after the second.
Chief Sullivan, in a televised news report, said the cold conditions made it tough for firefighters to get water on the flames. At the time of the fire, the temperature was sub-freezing in the low 20s, dipping into the high teens as the night wore on. The water from the hoses and ladder pipes used to fight the blaze soon led to icing conditions in the area around the large building, leading to, at times, treacherous footing for the firefighters. “Anytime that you’re [using] water in sub-freezing temperatures, you’re going to run into icing conditions,” Chief Sullivan, who commanded operations at the fire scene, said in a televised report on the fire, “so you’ve got to be sure of your footing. The ice takes over everything.”
Those fighting the blaze included local first responders, as well as mutual aid firefighters from seven other local communities. Mutual aid response brought firefighters from Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Medford, Melrose and Revere to assist Malden Fire Department, either at the scene in direct firefighting operations, or covering Malden’s other stations. Over 50 firefighters were at the scene, and according to Malden Fire Department reports, they were spread out on Grove Street, in front of the building, on Glenwood Street, at the side of the structure and behind the building on Claflin Terrace.
All streets leading to or at the fire scene – Grove Street, Glenwood Street, Washington Street and Winter Street (from northern Main Street, Malden) – were closed off and detoured from the time the fire started until about 8:00 p.m., after the icy streets were salted and treated. Despite it being the height of the evening commute, access to and from the nearby Oak Grove Station was severely impacted due to the fire.
Other impacts included a power outage in the immediate area of the fire and beyond, when National Grid shut off electrical power lines to the building. Power was out for a period of time in both the Oak Grove neighborhood and some streets in the nearby North Medford area, off of Highland Avenue.
According to a televised online news report on WCVB-TV, one resident of the building, Brian Pham, whose parents own Oak Grove Laundry Center, said he was walking home from the adjacent train station when he saw multiple fire trucks outside of the building. “I basically sprinted over here knowing that my parents are working. Luckily, they were already out,” Pham said in a televised news report. “I have never seen anything like that. I was just in shock.”
The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services team from Lynn responded to the scene, providing snacks, water, blankets and other care on a frigid night. Representatives from the American Red Cross were also on hand at the fire scene and reported they would procure shelter for those Malden residents displaced by the blaze. City officials also indicated they were ready to help, including Malden Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ligia Noriega-Murphy and Ward 3 Councillor Amanda Linehan, whose ward includes the site of the fire.
Supt. Noriega-Murphy mentioned the fire at Monday night’s Malden School Committee meeting and said any resources available to Malden Public Schools would be at the ready to help any residents affected by the fire, particularly if any students and their families lived there.
Councillor Linehan, via Twitter and Facebook social media, alerted Ward 3 and all Malden residents to the fire shortly after it began and also of the icy conditions around the neighborhood due to firefighting operations, and later, the power outage. She also thanked Malden Fire, Malden Police, the mutual aid communities and the Malden Department of Public Works (DPW) for all the combined efforts to keep the neighborhood safe, including the DPW crews’ extensive salting and sanding of the streets heavily iced up due to the water at the scene.
Councillor Linehan mentioned the fire and its aftermath the next evening at the first-of-the-year Malden City Council meeting, again thanking all city agencies and departments involved, and noting she would be following up with residents of the burned out building to evaluate their needs and what Ward 3 and city resources might be available and needed to assist them.
Several other Councillors, including City Council President Craig Spadafora, Ward 6 Councillor Stephen Winslow and Ward 7 Councillor Chris Simonelli, among others, also expressed their concern for the victims of the fire and said they were ready to help.
There was no estimate or the damage to the building at the time of The Advocate’s press deadline, but there appeared to be heavy extensive damage the day after the fire. The latest assessed value of the building was over $900,000.