LAWRENCE (CBS) – More than two dozen people were forced out of their homes by a huge fire that damaged or destroyed six buildings in Lawrence early Thursday morning.

The four-alarm fire started around 2 a.m. in an abandoned building at 29 Summer Street and quickly spread to surrounding homes in the neighborhood.

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Fire Chief Brian Moriarty praised his firefighters and police for getting everyone out safely.

“Outstanding performance by these people. Outstanding!” he told WBZ-TV.

Four firefighters were hurt. Three went to the hospital for treatment.

The fire melted the siding off of some of the houses. (WBZ-TV)

The fire melted the siding off of some of the houses. (WBZ-TV)

Most of the residents were asleep when the four-alarm fire broke out.

“It was terrible,” Yorzi Aquino told WBZ. “I just got out as fast as I could.”

“I was really scared,” said Oscar Reyes, a young boy who escaped with his mother and sister. “I could have died there.”

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The Red Cross is now helping 29 people find temporary places to live. A shelter was set up at the nearby Leonard School.

Liz Margonsolis and her family lost their home.

“Very sad, very scared, because my family doesn’t have anything now,” she told WBZ NewsRadio 1030. “I don’t have documents, very, very scared.”

There’s no word yet on a cause.

Lawrence mayor Dan Rivera said homeless people were in the abandoned building before the fire.

He said the fire affected six buildings, four of which are “probably not going to be repairable.”

No other information is available at this point in the investigation.

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WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports