By Tara Vocino
Tenants and neighbors watched in awe as a five-story apartment complex burned all day and night, where several cats are still missing, in a five-alarm blaze at 10 Franklin Ave., beginning at around 2:08 p.m. on Sunday.
“It’s devastating,” 14-year tenant and former trustee Mehron Puorishaag said, who lives in Unit 205 at Gateway East Condo Association, which has 36 units. More than 100 residents lost their home in the fire.
Puorishaag alerted firefighters that they could access through the unit doors, but they accessed the fire through the roof, and he guessed that the fire spread more because of that access point – and because putting water on the fire spreads, Puorishaag said.
“There was no fire visible, but once they accessed the smoke coming from the roof, flames spread like wildfire,” Puorishaag said. “Smoke was coming from the bathroom of Unit 404 on this side of the building, but the owner said there wasn’t any fire. The Unit 404 owner saw only smoke coming from the roof – no fire.”
State Department of Fire Services spokesperson Jennifer Mieth confirmed that arriving firefighters saw only smoke and no fire inside each of the fourth-floor apartments, leading investigators to believe the fire was in a space above the apartments and below the roof, which is now mostly gone.
“While the investigation is in its early stages, the fire is not considered suspicious,” Mieth said. “It is currently unsafe to enter the building, which may be a total loss. An assessment needs to be made of the structural stability to determine if the building can be made safe to conduct a fire scene investigation. In addition, heavy equipment may be needed.”
Revere Fire Captain Tom Todisco explained the turn of events. “Once it became clear it was unsafe to attack the fire from the interior, all members were ordered out of the building, and it became a defensive attack,” Todisco said. “The initial call came from the alarm company, indicating the alarm was going off on the 4th floor.”
Puorishaag said the unseasonably warm weather worked in everyone’s favor since they were out enjoying themselves, and there weren’t any civilian injuries. However, two cats are missing, he said. Smoke detectors were also working properly, Puorishaag said. Firefighters weren’t able to extinguish the fire until the next morning due to the heavy smoke conditions, and four firefighters were sent to the hospital for heat-related injuries. They’ve since been released, according to Todisco.
“They aren’t able to contain it,” Puorishaag said on the scene. “There’s just so much water and smoke.”
Todisco said firefighters used “massive” amounts of water to finally extinguish the blaze.
Neighbors gave their immediate reaction while watching the house burn. Highland Street resident Ana Garcia said it’s getting worse and worse. But it’s not the first time. “A couple of years ago, the two-family house next to it caught on fire; they remodeled it, and it caught on fire again,” Garcia said.
Neighbor Leann Sterling said the firefighters were having a tough time keeping the blaze under control. “If one person caused this, ‘Oh my God,’” Sterling said.
Todisco said that the Red Cross was on the scene; Revere High School was opened for shelter and processing by Red Cross. Those who had no transportation to the high school were transported by MBTA bus.
A tenant, who was sleeping at the high school, gave his take on the fire. “I was suffocating, because of the heavy smoke,” tenant Daniel Builes said. “I’ve never seen so many firefighters in one place. I lost my mattress and a few things.”
Red Cross Shelter Manager Craig Wolfe said they had cots for tenants to sleep in, providing them with a warm and safe place to stay. “We also have city officials, police and fire on scene,” Wolfe said. “There’s food for everyone, and 49 people are taking shelter here tonight.”
Responding apparatus from Revere were Engines 1, 3, 4, and 5, as well as Ladder 1 and 2. Outside cities responding were Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Massport, Medford, Somerville, Stoneham and Wakefield, according to Todisco.
For information about the missing cats, call or text 508-451-7282.