By Bill Kirk
---- — LAWRENCE — A barking dog, a quick-thinking neighbor, and a functioning sprinkler system kept a fire from spreading in a rambling, 9-unit apartment and retail complex on Union Street yesterday around 8 a.m.
Firefighters responded to a report of smoke showing at 101 Union St. and arrived to find smoke coming out the open, front door of the Hair Distintion salon on the first floor of the building.
Deputy Fire Chief John Marsh said it appears the fire was started by a space heater that may have been attached to a bracket hanging from the ceiling. Fire investigators are still studying the cause of the fire, he said. The fire spread to a bench at the back of the small salon.
When the fire did break out, the alarms sounded and the sprinklers deployed, quickly helping to smother the fire, Marsh said.
He said the sprinklers may have saved the building.
“That would have been a raging inferno,” he said, noting that the structure is made up of 2, triple-deckers that have been attached.
“It would have been a bonfire” if not for the sprinklers, he said. “We would have gotten there and the place would have been roaring.”
Meanwhile, Tanya Gerard, 28, who lives in an apartment in the same building, said her American pit bull, Jojo, was “flipping out and going crazy” yesterday morning.
When her mother looked outside, she could see smoke coming out the door of the salon and yelled that the building was on fire.
Gerard said she put on her sweater and grabbed a fire extinguisher and, together with a male passerby, attempted to put out the fire. She said the smoke was so thick she had a hard time breathing and had to keep running out of the burning shop.
When firefighters arrived, they quickly knocked down the blaze and brought the scorched bench outside and put it on the sidewalk in front of the shop.
Lawrence Fire Inspector Capt. Paul Maccarone was investigating the incident yesterday morning.
Marsh said there was “no significant damage” to the building, but that water did get into the basement and most of the contents of the salon, such as clothing and shoes, appeared to have been ruined by the smoke.
Joe Peralto, son of the owner of the salon, said the building has been in foreclosure and is under control of a bank. He said his mother bought the business about a year ago and was eager to get back into the shop to fix it up.