By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — Fire officials are trying to determine the cause of a two-alarm blaze Tuesday night that left a family of seven homeless, including five children.
The fire broke out at 21 Senter St. shortly before 8:30 p.m., bringing approximately two dozen firefighters from four towns, according to Salem fire Capt. Stephane Cattin.
They fought the blaze for more than an hour, knocking it down about 9:35 p.m. But it was too late — the one-story ranch home was gutted and part of its roof collapsed. No one was injured.
Jeff Adams, who lives at the home with his girlfriend, Lisa Caloggero, and their five children, was devastated by the fire.
Adams stood outside the burned-out house yesterday morning, glancing at the charred ruins, as Salem fire marshal Jeffrey Emanuelson investigated the cause. Debris lay in the yard.
“The house is gone,” Adams said.
He said the family had just finished dinner, and he was having a glass of wine when the fire broke out in the garage.
“I heard a pop and my son ran to the garage,” he said. “It was flaming.”
Flames soon engulfed the attached garage, quickly spreading to the house through the attic.
The family and their dog got out safely, Adams said.
“Everybody is perfect,” he said, walking away.
But the experience has been overwhelming for the family, according to Angela Lister, Caloggero’s cousin.
“It’s too much to take right now,” Lister said. “We will see what we can do together as a family and pull together.”
Lister helped get the couple’s children to school yesterday morning and returned to the home to help salvage clothes and other belonging. The children range in age from 10 to 18.
Lister said she drove to the home late Tuesday night as soon as she heard about the fire.
“I rushed over as fast as I could,” she said. “Everybody got out safe — that’s all we care about.”
Relatives, the American Red Cross and the town’s human services department are assisting the family.
Lister praised the firefighters for their compassion and for trying to salvage whatever personal items they could, spreading them out on the lawn.
“They are incredible people,” Lister said. “They are more than just firefighters — I was overwhelmed by it.”
Firefighters from Salem, Derry, Windham and Derry fought the fire. Pelham and Hampstead firefighters covered Salem’s stations, Cattin said.
Emanuelson said yesterday afternoon he was still trying to determine the fire’s cause, but confirmed it was not suspicious. Town tax records show the property is assessed at $224,600.