WILMINGTON (CBS) – A massive fire tore through a Wilmington apartment complex Friday, leaving 40 people homeless.

In a freezing snow storm, firefighters from across the North Shore battled the blaze at 4121 Avalon Drive.
Investigators say the fire likely started in a back porch grille.

(Photo courtesy: Billerica Fire)

(Photo courtesy: Billerica Fire)

Wind-whipped flames quickly spread through the complex; the flames then jumped to 15 apartments.

Wilmington Fire Chief Ed Bradbury says the fire “started on the outside of the building and communicated inside to the void space and once it got there it went from one end to the other.”

Crews from Billerica and several other surrounding communities were called in to help. State Fire Marshall Steve Coan was also on scene.

“This is the worst night ever to fight a fire, hard to evacuate due to weather conditions, but these poor fire fighters put it all into it,” he said.

A fire destroyed several units of a Wilmington apartment complex.

A fire destroyed several units of a Wilmington apartment complex.

Red Cross volunteers said they were able to arrange temporary shelter at a hotel for 13 people displaced by the fire.

The others were staying with relatives and friends or had made other arrangements.

There were no reports of any injuries.

WBZ talked to one woman who lost her apartment.

“I just stood there and then I heard a fire engine. The fire fighters cleared us all out and we just stood there and watched it burn. It spread so fast,” the woman said.

WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve contributed to this report.


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