By CBSBoston.com Staff

NORTHBORO (CBS) – A man was found dead in a fire at an apartment building that had no working smoke detectors in Northboro early Friday morning.

Firefighters were called to the house on Maple Street around 4:20 a.m. and they found heavy flames shooting out of a second floor window.

“These old houses have horsehair, lots of plaster and it really contains the fire,” Northboro Fire Chief David Parenti said.” We had flames 30 to 40 feet coming out that front window.”

One resident woke up, smelled the smoke and started banging on doors.

“It was a loud banging on my door, and I was already up at 5 a.m., as usually I am. And he says, ‘The house is on fire,'” said 75-year-old Richard Jones, who lived in the building. “I didn’t smell any smoke until I got outside. Then I realized, my god, we got a big fire going on over there.”

Parenti said there were seven people in the house when the fire started and six got out safely. The seventh, a man who lived by himself on the second floor, was found there dead when firefighters were able to get inside.

“It was kind of sad to think of something that was historic in town and historical to the neighborhood that was going up in smoke,” neighbor Pat Doyle said. “The most tragic part of course is the gentleman who lost his life he was on the second floor.”

The chief said if the building had working smoke detectors that could have made the difference between life and death.

“I found one detector in the front hallway that appears to be 1970’s vintage,” Parenti said. “Every person I spoke to that was in there said there were no smoke detectors in their units.”

“By the time we got here the fire was well involved as opposed to smoke detectors would have notified them as soon as it started smoldering,” he said. “We could have gotten here much quicker and we probably would have had a much better result.”

The house on Maple Street after the fire early Friday. (WBZ-TV)

There’s no word yet on a cause. A Southboro firefighter was taken to the hospital as a precaution after having issues with the heat, Parenti said.

Hours after the fire was put out, a black cat was still missing. The chief said it was found by a young firefighter who just noticed it in a burned out room.

CBSBoston.com Staff