By Bill Kirk
LAWRENCE — A 2-alarm fire possibly started by an incense candle caused extensive damage to a two-family home at 50 Forest St. last night, leaving eight people homeless and causing one firefighter to be taken to the hospital.
The fire started at about 6 p.m. and quickly escalated to two alarms, according to Dep. Joe McInnis. Firefighters from Andover, North Andover, Lowell and Methuen were called in to help fight the blaze. It was mostly out by around 6:30, although the roof continued to smolder until after 7 p.m.
“It started on the second floor and extended into the attic and a couple of other rooms,” McInnis said. While there were no injuries to any of the residents, he said one firefighter was taken to the hospital for treatment of dehydration and exhaustion.
Fire Chief Jack Bergeron said the building could not be lived in and would need significant rehabilitation. He said he didn’t think the house was a total loss. According to City Assessor records, the property is owned by Cornielle Ivelisse of Lawrence and is assessed at $233,800.
The chief said he did not yet know the cause of the fire.
“It’s too early to say,” he said.
Residents of the second floor, where the fire started, said they thought the fire may have been caused by an incense candle.
Irene Walwyn, who lives in the second floor apartment with her two sons, 18 and 12, said she was in the kitchen styling a friend’s hair when she heard the smoke alarm go off in the hallway.
She went out to check and didn’t see anything. Then she checked all the bedrooms and when she opened the door to one of the rooms she saw flames and thick, black smoke pouring out.
“I started screaming and told everyone to get out,” she said. She told her children, her friend, and another friend who was napping on the couch, to run. “I was screaming so loud,” she said.
She said her older son had an incense candle burning in his room which may have started the fire.
Residents of the first-floor apartment, who didn’t want to give their names, said they heard banging on their door and were told there was a fire and to get out of the house.
The Red Cross responded to the home to help residents displaced by the fire. While, eight reside in the building, three were away at the time of the fire.
Two adults have been provided with a hotel stay and emergency funds for food. Three others were offered emergency funds for food and clothing and elected to stay with friends.