"You wind up breaking down the walls to chase after the fire. It doesn't take long for it to spread from the basement all the way up to the roof. The initial report was there was smoke in the wall on the first floor. I went to the second floor and opened the bathroom door, and I was met with a wall of fire," the chief said.
With temperatures dipping to the low 20s, the intersection of Hall and Berkeley streets became patches of ice — which made the pavement hazardous to pedestrians walking by. Firefighters initially had some problems with getting water from some of the hydrants, but Marsh said they were able to tap into other hydrants in the area without any difficulty.
"If there's a plus to any of this, there were no reports of serious injury and there weren't any exposures," Marsh said, referring to the possibility of fire spreading to other buildings in the neighborhood.
The American Red Cross had its emergency wagon and volunteers at the scene last night, assisting the people who were left homeless. Volunteers provided them with emergency shelter at a local hotel, funds for food and clothing and warm winter garments. They also provided hot food and beverages to first responders.
Mayor Daniel Rivera, who had just flown in from Washington, D.C. after attending the State of the Union address, and City Councilor Sandy Almonte of District A, rushed to the scene to make sure that the victims of yesterday's fire were getting help.
Sharon Cora, a concerned resident, made a food run for the firefighters and displaced families.
"I'm just a resident of Lawrence trying to help out," said Cora, who brought 10 pizzas, two Boxes of Joe, 10 hot chocolates, a dozen donuts and 30 cheeseburgers to the scene, with her son D.J.
Several area fire departments — including Methuen, Andover, Lowell, North Andover, Dracut and Salem, N.H. helped at the scene or provided station coverage.