LAWRENCE (CBS) — Two children were found dead after a four-alarm fire at a Lawrence apartment building early Tuesday morning when a wall of flames prevented firefighters from reaching them, the state fire marshal said.
The fire in the six-unit building on Kingston Street started around 3:30 a.m. and the triple-decker was quickly engulfed.
Two boys, ages 4 and 10, were reported missing by their relatives.
Officials have not released the victim’s names, but the Wetherbee Middle School sent home a notice to parents saying fourth grader Kelvin Medina was killed in the fire. The school says counselors will be available to students.
Fire officials said the fire began on the first floor, but quickly spread both vertically to the third floor and horizontally. Flames spread into all six units of the building.
State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said the children were found in a third floor bedroom. Firefighters were not able to get into the room because of the intensity of the heat and flames there.
Two firefighters were injured attempting to reach the children. One received burns to the face and another broke his foot attempting to kick in the door.
Coan said the investigation is complete, and it has been determined that the fire was accidental and caused by an electrical problem. The fire likely burned in a space between the original ceiling and a drop ceiling.
The fire marshal praised the effort of firefighters who rushed to the third floor after people outside the building told them there were people trapped inside.
“With total disregard of their own safety they ran into that building and they reached the third floor,” Coan said.
“There’s a certain amount of what a human can take in a fire like this,” said Lawrence Fire Chief John Marsh in a Tuesday press conference.
“It just gets to the point that you cannot go any further. Unfortunately that’s what ended up happening in today’s fire.”
The Red Cross said 17 adults and four children were displaced by the fire.
Coan said there were working smoke alarms and heat detectors in the triple-decker house and they helped alert residents.
But some told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 they were woken up by neighbors’ hollering outside.
“I just heard a guy walking down the street screaming ‘your house is on fire, your house is on fire, get out’ and he woke us up,” one resident said.
It’s believed the fire started in the back of the building.
A relative told WBZ the 4-year-old boy was planning to celebrate his fifth birthday this coming Sunday.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said the residents were an immigrant family new to Lawrence. The children’s names have not yet been released.
“We all have heavy hearts today,” Rivera said.
“It’s a real sad day in our city. We have a lot of problems and we wake up to them all the time. But this is not one of those things you can prepare for.”
Lawrence Public Schools Superintendent Jeffrey C. Riley said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that the school community is grieving the loss of the two boys.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by the tragic events of this morning, especially the families and loved ones of the two young children who lost their lives,” said Riley.
“This is a terrible day for the city of Lawrence and the Lawrence Public schools, and as a school system we will continue to support our community every way we can.”
If you want to help, Rivera said you can bring donations to Lawrence City Hall on Common Street or contribute online at bitly.com/LAWRENCEEMERGENCYFUND
Contributions by mail can be sent to:
ECCF Lawrence Emergency Fund
175 Andover Street
Danvers MA 01923
Anyone with questions about the fund can call the mayor’s office at 978-777-8876.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports
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