By CBSBoston.com Staff

LAWRENCE (CBS) – A massive fire tore through a row of townhouses in Lawrence Thursday night, destroying 12 units.

Lawrence Fire Chief Brian Moriarty said everyone inside their homes at 30 Shawsheen Court escaped safely after flames broke out around 8 p.m.

A fire tore through a row of homes on Shawsheen Court in Lawrence (WBZ-TV)

“The biggest challenge was the fire had a major head start,” said Moriarty. He added that they had water problems because they don’t have a lot of high volume water in the area so they were forced to lay long lines to fight the fire.

One resident left his home after someone knocked on his door.

“I walked outside and all 12 units were engulfed,” the man said. “I never saw anything like it. It happened that fast.”

There are other buildings nearby but firefighters kept the fire from spreading.

A massive fire tore through homes on Shawsheen Court in Lawrence (Photo credit Twitter/@Jamie1Kelley)

“The investigation is going to take a long time because so much of the building is burnt,” Moriarty said. “Unless we have someone that can give us an eyewitness account we may not ever be able to figure it out.”

Several townhomes were destroyed in the fire at Shawsheen Court. (WBZ-TV)

At least 16 people have been displaced and the Lawrence mayor’s office is assisting them.

CBSBoston.com Staff