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December 6, 2013

Back on Berkeley Street: Family of nine rebuilds home almost a year after 3-alarm fire

LAWRENCE — The past 10 months have been a trying time for Toni Durfee.

After a three-alarm fire destroyed her house at 70-72 Berkeley St., she and four of her children lived in a two-bedroom hotel suite with a kitchenette in Andover. Every day, she drove her kids to and from school in Lawrence. Luckily, her daughter Amanda, who lived on the first floor of the home with her own four children, was able to get an apartment a few weeks after the fire.

It was a big adjustment for Durfee, her children and grandchildren, but it’s all finally coming to an end in time for Christmas.

Thanks to $300,000 from her homeowner’s insurance, she was able to rebuild her home on its original 113-year old foundation. Contractors broke ground in July and on Wednesday, she received the occupancy permit to move back into the house she purchased in 1998.

“We’re moving in; we’re coming home,” said an elated Durfee.

But she will never forget Jan. 19, 2013 — the day her two-story house went up in flames. The 2 a.m. fire quickly destroyed the house due to water hydrant problems.

Lawrence Fire Chief Jack Bergeron said the fire started in the attic and the cause is still undetermined.

“I thought firefighters would just put it out, but when I went outside and looked up, the house was fully engulfed. It was frightening,” she said.

From the beginning, she knew she wanted to stay in Lawrence. Born in Boston, Durfee moved to the city at age 8.

“I’ve lived here most of my life, this is my city and I did not want to leave. Plus, my kids are all rooted here,” she said.

The new home has an open space concept, a spacious kitchen with marble counter tops. On Wednesday, the refrigerator, dishwasher and stove were delivered.

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