EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 7, 2007

Early morning fire hits downtown condos

Mark E. Vogler

HAVERHILL | A 3-alarm fire forced the evacuation of residents from a downtown condominium building on Emerson Street into the cold night air early this morning.

Some condo residents were taken to area hospitals with undetermined injuries.

Fire Departments from six surrounding communities responded to a call for mutual aid to cover the city while Haverhill firefighters battled the blaze that broke out in the upper floors of the Emerson Street Condominiums.

All available city firefighters were called to the scene at about 1 a.m. as the fire | then 90 minutes old | escalated to three alarms at the four-story brick building that sits in the downtown area, not far from the library.

When it appeared firefighters were getting the blaze under control, it flared up again as the top two floors and the roof in the rear of the condominiums were engulfed in flames. At that point, the commanders ordered firefighters to evacuate the building. They tried to extinguish the fire from ladders and a snorkel truck staged above the building.

Units from Salem, N.H., Amesbury, Lawrence, Methuen, Groveland and Merrimac came to help handle other fire emergencies and backup as local firefighters continued to work into the early morning hours.

The condominium is located at 94 Emerson St., near the corner of Welcome Street.

Crowds of people from the heavily populated area stood on the sidewalks and outside their homes, some of them cheering on the firefighters as they labored in the cold as flames jetted out one of the top floor windows.

"You guys are real heroes," a resident of a neighboring apartment yelled out to one firefighter.

Several residents were taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries. An emergency worker for Trinity Ambulance said his company transported three people for treatment of minor injuries.

Jose Sanchez-Santiago, 22, said he was playing pool in his second-floor unit around 11:30 p.m. when he heard people yelling to evacuate the building because of a fire.

"The fire was on the third floor, but a lot of smoke started coming onto the second floor," said Sanchez-Santiago, as he watched firefighters work at the four-story brick building from the sidewalk across the street.

"I grabbed my kid and grabbed my wife and got out of there," he said.

The Haverhill Fire Department called in the Water Department after encountering water pressure problems early today.