STOUGHTON (CBS) – Lightning likely sparked a fire at a housing complex for senior citizens in Stoughton Thursday morning.
Someone walking by the Stoughton Housing Authority on Capen Street saw smoke and flames coming out of the building’s tower around 4:15 am and went to the fire station nearby to report it.
Firefighters safely evacuated 53 people to a senior center and no one was hurt.
“That would have been our worst fear, with the fire in this building, with the evacuation, with the residents, most of them unable to get out themselves,” said Stoughton Fire Chief Michael Laracy. “For the most part it went as best as it could.”
The fire started in the cupola above the building, which does not contain any fire alarms. Chief Laracy said the fire was most likely caused by lightning from the storm striking the top of the building on Wednesday night.
William Hogan is one of the residents that had to be evacuated from the housing complex. He said he woke up to fire alarms.
“We had a lightning strike. I knew that, but I didn’t think nothing of it. I thought it just came down between the buildings, ” Hogan said.
The fire chief said the building did not have a sprinkler system because it did not require one when it was built in the 1970s. Laracy said plans were being made to put a sprinkler system in during upcoming renovations.
The building units on the third and fourth floors suffered extensive water damage and the power had to be shut off.
Laracy said the outcome would have been much worse, if not for the person who saw it and acted quickly.
“That fire would have grew and we would have had probably a different situation, especially for the residents on the fourth floor because they would have been affected first,” the chief said.
Following the evacuation Red Cross and Salvation Army arrived quickly to assist the residents. They were taken to senior centers and given a hot meal.
“We’re blessed, because a lot of things could have happened a lot worse. So everybody’s alive, all the pets are okay,” said resident Olivia Bergantin.
In the meantime, residents will not be allowed back inside for several days.
“Keep an eye on the place because my life was in there and I want to get some of it out of there,” Hogan said.
For the residents that need a place to stay, Stoughton police and firefighters have visited local hotels and negotiated a deal to put the displaced residents up free of charge.
“Stoughton is the classic New England town where people actually care about each other,” said Robin Grimm, the town manager. “You know, you bury your head all day and you go to work but when push comes to shove we’re all here for each other.”