HAVERHILL — Investigators believe the cause of a fire that heavily damaged a South Main Street home early yesterday is suspicious, according to police.
They also said a neighbor who noticed the fire and flagged down a police cruiser may have saved the life of a woman who was the last person to get out of the building.
The fire broke out sometime after midnight in a two-and-a-half story apartment building at 471 S. Main St., diagonally across the street from the Bradford Fire Station. The blaze sent the building’s occupants fleeing into the cold.
Late yesterday morning, Fire Chief Richard Borden said investigators with the Haverhill Police and Fire Departments along with state police investigators assigned to the state fire marshal’s office were at the scene searching for clues to the blaze.
Later that afternoon, police said arson investigators were considering the cause of the fire to be suspicious, and that the investigation was continuing.
Jason Madigan, 24, of Laurel Avenue told The Eagle-Tribune that friends had just dropped him off at home shortly after 1:30 a.m. when he heard popping noises coming from somewhere nearby. He realized the noises were caused by flames in a building several doors away. He said he flagged down a passing police cruiser, and he and an officer ran to the front door of the building.
“One of the girls had gotten out the back and said there was someone still inside,’’ Madigan said.
Police Patrolman Nicole Donnelly wrote in her report that she was on patrol on South Main Street when she was flagged down by Madigan, who told her the house was on fire. Donnelly called in the fire to the station and raced to the scene. She found that several people had already escaped the building. The back entrance was engulfed in flames so she and Madigan went to the front of the house, where the last occupant was able to flee.