EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


May 8, 2014

'A total inferno'

Woman, baby jump to safety as fire engulfs building


Malcolm Anderson of 23D Forest Acres Drive was among those forced from their apartments. A few minutes after 6 p.m., he said he wasn’t sure where he was going to stay last night.

He described the blaze as “a total inferno,” with flames shooting 15 feet into the air.

Fire Chief Richard Borden said the state police were being called in to assist in investigating the cause of the blaze. He said city Building Inspector Richard Osborne was also called in to help determine the condition of the building.

As of 6:25 p.m. yesterday, there were 409 homes and businesses without power in the Forest Acres apartments area.

Power was expected to be restored by 7 p.m. yesterday, according to National Grid. But by 7:41 p.m., there were still 42 customers affected by the outage and power to those customers was expected to be restored by 9:30 p.m. The outage began shortly before 2 p.m.

Red Cross volunteers helped residents from 18 units. They said 20 units were affected by the fire, but two of those units were vacant.

A total of 46 people were forced from their apartments by the fire, said Deb Duxbury, program disaster manager for the Red Cross.

Brush fire brings more danger

News of the woman who jumped with the child spread as the building fire was brought under control about 2:30 p.m. by firefighters from several area communities.

But then a series of windblown brush fires across several acres broke out in a hilly area behind the building, forcing firefighters to scramble to protect nearby houses.

Even though the building fire was under control, heavy smoke continued to pour out of it. Almost half of the upper part of the right section of the building was gutted and the roof had collapsed. Fire officials said a fire wall between two connected apartment buildings, plus aggressive work by firefighters, kept flames from spreading from the burning structure to the adjoining one.

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