By Tashanea Whitlow

PEPPERELL (CBS) – A woman was killed in an early morning four-alarm fire in a six-unit apartment building on Main Street in Pepperell.

An off-duty firefighter was leaving the grocery store when he saw the flames and called for help.

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“You couldn’t get near that fire it was just unbelievable, the heat, you could feel it from here,” said neighbor Dana Fairweather.

Flames engulfing Pepperell home (Credit: Tim Farra)

The heat and humidity were an added challenge, and extra crews– including around 50 firefighters and EMTs– responded to the scene.

“You know with the amount of gear and the heat, plus the fire, the humidity, the initial crews only had so much, you know, energy to attack that fire, and that’s with multiple alarms,” said Pepperell Fire Chief Brian Borneman.

Chief Borneman said there was “heavy fire” showing from two windows on the first floor, where an elderly woman lived with her husband. The woman used a wheelchair, and died trying to get to safety.

“Her husband was here earlier, and he tried to run across the street towards the you know, police had to stop him, finally he went to the hospital, he was in a wreck,” Fairweather said.

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Four firefighters and one civilian were taken to the hospital.


One woman’s son was saved by someone banging on his door.

“You don’t know how grateful I am that my son is OK,” she said.

Neighbor Allison Dupont said this fire was the biggest fire she has witnessed in ten years of living in Pepperell.

Severe fire damage (WBZ-TV)

The residents of the building are displaced, and the Red Cross is assisting with finding a place to stay.

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The cause of the fire is under investigation, but it is not believed to be suspicious.