By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — A family of seven has been given emergency shelter by the Red Cross following a fire that gutted the top floor of their apartment on Larchwood Road.
Alice, a resident of the apartment who declined to give her last name, said she was at work when the fire broke out just before 2 p.m., though several of her children were home. Everyone escaped and no one was injured, but two family cats were killed.
Michael Farelli, the maintenance superintendent for the Methuen Housing Authority, said the unit is a four-bedroom apartment in a building with four units. A couple and their five children live in the apartment. One of the children is over age 18.
Alice said she and her family had lived there for 10 years. One of the children and his friend, who did not give their names, said they were in the basement listening to music when the fire started. They tried to put it out, but failed and had to evacuate when pieces of the ceiling started falling.
Kat Powers, director of communications for the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts, said they had emergency responders on scene and provided emergency shelter for the family, along with emergency funds for food and clothing.
The fire started in one bedroom on the second-floor of the apartment, which was built in 1950 and is clad in wooden shingles. Fire burned the shingles around the window, and firefighters threw charred furniture and bags of clothes from the window after the fire was extinguished.
Firefighters responded at 1:53 p.m. and had the fire out in about a half hour. Police closed Larchwood Road to traffic between Oakside Avenue and Lawrence Street while a ladder and four pumpers worked on the fire.
Fire Deputy Chief Charles Ripley said investigators with Methuen and the state Fire Marshal’s office are looking into the cause. The apartment is uninhabitable, but Ripley said residents in the other unis will be allowed to return.
Salem, N.H. and Dracut fire departments provided coverage for the city.
At 3 p.m. yesterday, the temperature was 30 degrees, but felt like 19 degrees with the 17 mile-per-hour wind factored in, according to The Weather Channel. Firefighters brushed crusts of frost and ice from their coats after the fire was out.
The apartment buildings on Larchwood Road and Oakside Avenue are owned and maintained by the Methuen Housing Authority.
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