LOWELL (CBS) – One person died and three people were seriously hurt in a fire that gutted a multi-family home and spread to two other buildings in Lowell early Wednesday morning.
Firefighters rushed to the triple-decker on Westford Street around 4 a.m. as people inside were forced to run out into the bitter cold as flames and thick smoke spread through the building.
Police were first on the scene and Officer Walter Varey, who was forced to crawl into the building due to the smoke, found a man, woman and their child on the second floor. Varey carried the child downstairs to safety and return to assist the two adults out of the building before being overcome by smoke and having to be helped from the building by two fellow officers.
A woman trapped on the second floor was able to throw her baby out the window to Lowell Officer Leang Chhor and Officer Joshua Delisle. The officers caught the baby. The woman then jumped from the window and was caught by Chhor and Officer Warren Greenhalgh.
“We heard all the smoke detectors go off on time, like right away once the smoke got bigger,” a teenager told WBZ-TV. “We seen everybody run outside, we got everybody out as fast as we could and we called the firefighters.”
“My first instinct was to go inside, get everybody out,” he said “If there was any kids I told them throw them through the window, try to get everybody out as quick as possible.”
“I live across the street and I could feel the heat from inside my apartment,” said neighbor Jeff McMillan.
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Parts of the roof eventually collapsed three different times within an hour.
“Fire department members worked hard in very cold weather conditions to, not only save lives, but also keep fire from extending beyond the fire building and it’s adjacent exposures,” said Lowell Fire Chief Philip Charron.
It’s not clear yet how or where the fire started.
A 77-year-old man died in the fire and two women and one man were rushed to Boston hospitals with serious injuries. The Salvation Army said it’s helping 50-to-60 residents who were forced out of their homes by the fire.
No other information is available at this point in the investigation.