Firefighters Warn of Dangers Of Illegal Rooming Houses

By Beth Germano, WBZ-TV

BROCKTON (CBS) — What’s left is mostly debris around a Brockton home after a fire May 6 that killed a 46-year-old woman. She was found in a basement apartment after firefighters fought their way through heavy fire and thick smoke.

“There was at least an illegal bedroom in that cellar that shouldn’t have been there,” said fire chief Richard Francis.

Faulty electrical wiring in the basement ceiling may have been the cause. It became a trap not just for the victim, Lisa Trevains, but potentially for firefighters as well.

WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano reports.

“The firefighters are crawling around, storage containers could fall on them, they could get tangled up in wires,” said chief Francis.

It’s an all too common problem for firefighters when dealing with illegal rooming houses, where fire officials say multiple tenants are also overloading circuits and creating fire hazards.

When fire raced through a Chelsea double-decker on Addison Street on April 11, it took two sweeps through the building before firefighters found a man living illegally in a pantry, getting him out just in time.

Fire officials say they’re expecting three, four, or five tenants when they arrive on scene and instead find as many as a dozen occupants, and not always easily.

“In that type of environment, you don’t even see a door,” said Chelsea deputy fire chief John Quartieri. In this case, the fire victim was found in a room with a mattress just off the kitchen.

In Brockton, investigators found at least 89 illegal rooms or apartments in the more than 100 homes that were investigated. “It’s a significant number in the city,” said chief Francis. “It’s a constant effort to go after them and stay on top of them.”

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