By Douglas Moser
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — A three-alarm fire engulfed the front of a two-family home at 103-105 Second St. yesterday afternoon. Nobody was injured.
Firefighters had the blaze out within an hour. One occupant was home at the time and escaped, fire officials and neighbors said.
Fire officials believe the fire began in the area around the front porch, but the cause remained under investigation last night.
“They knocked it down within an hour,” Fire Chief Andrew Melnikas said. “That’s good given the fact when we could see it in the air when we left the station and the front was involved.”
Melnikas said the first-floor occupant was home when the fire broke out at about 1:45 p.m. yesterday. The occupant of the second floor was at work and her children were at school, Melnikas said.
Neighbors said an explosion just preceded the fire spreading up the front of the house. “The whole thing was going in seconds, just like that. Boom,” said Jim Amor, who lives across the street.
His son, Brian, said he heard the explosion inside their house. “It made me jump up,” he said.
Melnikas said his investigator found a tire in the first floor and believes that was the explosion what neighbors heard. He said it was not an explosion of combustible material.
The fire melted the vinyl siding off the front and partway along the sides. Neither of the houses beside it appeared to be damaged.
Fire Lt. John Weir credited “a solid and aggressive effort” by the town firefighters joined by other area departments with saving the two and a half story wood-frame building.
“The house is structurally sound. We were able to contain the fire to the front quarter of the building,” Weir said.
“We had to pull down ceilings and open up walls to make sure we got to the fire. So, it’s going to require some extensive renovations and remodeling before the people are allowed back in,” he said.
“Most of the fire was on the outside of the building. It got through the windows, doors and walls. We hit it from the outside and were able to contain the fire to the front. There is some heavy smoke and water damage inside,” he said.
The chief sounded a third alarm because of the large volume of fire at the front of the house when the first crews arrived, according to Weir.
North Andover, Andover, Haverhill, Lawrence and Middleton responded to the fire, Melnikas said. Boxford and Georgetown provided coverage at the town’s two stations.
Officials had no estimate on how much it will cost to repair the century-old building.
The American Red Cross of Massachusetts had a crew at the scene yesterday, assisting tenants of the building and making sure they had emergency shelter and food.
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