By Bill Kirk
---- — LAWRENCE — A three-alarm fire that started in the basement of a 3-family home on East Haverhill Street left 13 people temporarily homeless, including the owner of the property who lives on the first floor.
Lawrence Fire Department Dep. Brian Murphy said the first alarm was struck at 12:44 a.m. for a fire 221-223 East Haverhill St.
When firefighters arrived on scene they found flames blowing out the rear basement window, he said. A second alarm was struck at 12:52 and a third alarm at 1:02 a.m.
Firefighters aggressively attacked the blaze, pulling down walls and ceilings throughout the rear interior of the building to get at the flames, which had gone up the outside rear wall and interior partitions.
"There was heavy damage in the basement and walls in the rear section of all three floors," Murphy said. "Crews contained it all to the rear section of the house. It was a difficult battle but they did an excellent job."
All 13 occupants of the building escaped and there were no reported injuries of the residents or firefighters, he said.
Kat Powers, communications director for the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts, said volunteers were on scene throughout the incident assisting residents of the house.
She said the Red Cross is providing the three families who lived in the building financial help with shelter by paying for hotel stays, as well as providing funds for food. She said they were able to get their clothes out, so the Red Cross didn't have to provide clothing, but they did provide them with blankets to ward off the chill.
Murphy said the last firefighting crew had cleared the scene by 7 a.m. and the board-up crews were arriving to secure the property.
While an exact cause hasn't been established, he said he believes it was accidental. He said the owner of the property, whose name was not immediately available, lives on the first floor.
Mutual aid came from Methuen, Andover, North Andover and Lowell, both at the scene and covering at the station.