By Jill Harmacinski
LAWRENCE — Taishaly Lopez put a pan of cooking oil on the stove and then went in the other room to pick up one of her daughters early yesterday afternoon. Shortly after, when she walked back into the kitchen, “everything was on fire,” said Lopez, 19.
Lopez immediately grabbed her two daughters, newborn, Dariana, and Lovelie, 1, and ran from the 109 Arlington St. apartment.
But her two dogs, a blue nose pitbull and a Yorkie, were still trapped inside. Firefighters quickly doused the third-floor fire, emerging shortly afterwards with the pitbull, named Bella.
The firefighters carried out Bella, who was sitting in her plastic crate covered with insulation and soot, and put her down in front of her overjoyed owner on the sidewalk across the street.
Then, grabbing bottles of spring water, firefighters soaked down and cleaned off Bella. Lawrence firefighter Hector Santiago, using a special size mask for animals, administered oxygen to the dog.
Sadly, the Yorkie, Rossi, was unaccounted for after the blaze.
The fire broke out at 12:49 p.m., with multiple 911 calls alerting police and firefighters.
When crews pulled up at the apartment building at the corner of Arlington and Willow streets, flames were rolling out of a third-floor window. There was also heavy smoke in the area.
The fire quickly escalated to three alarms, bringing every firefighter on duty in Lawrence to the scene. Firefighters from Methuen, Andover and Lowell were also dispatched to the scene while crews from Dracut, North Andover and Salem, N.H., covered city fire stations.
Fire Chief Jack Bergeron estimated the blaze was knocked down in 20 minutes. Firefighters then overhauled the apartment, checking for hot spots and damage.
Bergeron said the cause of the fire was the cooking oil in a pan “that flashed over.”
The multi-family home, built in 1900, has insulation made of recycled newspaper. Due to the insulation, firefighters who battled the blaze were left with a greyish colored soot all over their faces and turnout gear, Bergeron explained.
Bergeron praised the firefighters’ quick work, noting in the Arlington Street area, a congested city neighborhood, there is “always the possibility” of fire exposure to other nearby buildings and homes.
The American Red Cross was called to assist Lopez and her family yesterday. While her mother does live nearby, Lopez said the fire destroyed her baby formula, food and daughter’s clothing.
In total, the Red Cross said they assisted two families; eight adults and four children, providing them “with emergency temporary shelter at a hotel and funds for food and clothing,” said Ashley Studley
The apartment building, which measures 3,444-square-feet, is owned by Rosah Castro and was assessed this year for $178,200, according to city records.
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