LOWELL (CBS) – An elderly man who was inside a Lowell building when a fire broke out Tuesday night was found dead early Wednesday morning.

Witnesses say he was working with a blow torch when they heard an explosion.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports

“At this point, we believe the fire may have been caused by some sort of accident with somebody using a plumber’s torch,” says Fire Chief Edward Pitta.

Pitta says it was an elderly grandfather who was holding that torch on the second floor of the building. The man’s family says he never made it out.

“We ran into the house and tried to save them,” says neighbor Mike Doherty, “the house was just fully engulfed.”

Doherty, who happens to be a trained EMT, was among the first there.

“The daughter was out there, and she told me that her dad was at the top of the stairs,” says Doherty. “We went up the back stairs and a police officer came in and screamed at us, told us to get out of the building.”

“She was hysterical,” he says. “Because her dad was in there. She knew he was at the top of the stairs.”

A crowd of neighbors and friends watched as firefighters battled flames that persisted for hours.

“The roof was coming down, starting to collapse,” says Chief Pitta. “Some of the floors inside were collapsing.”

The man and his wife lived in one of the several apartments upstairs from their longtime family business, a variety store that specialized in Portuguese items, on the first floor.

His name has not been released.  He was in his 80’s.

Everyone else in the building made it out without major injuries.


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