LAWRENCE — A 3-alarm fire on Garfield Street early yesterday morning, in which no one was hurt, destroyed a lot more than a vacant three-family.
For more than 20 years, 57 Garfield St. served as a loving home for 300 to 400 foster children. Judith Ford, who at 74 has retired from her vocation as a foster mother, owns the house.
She moved around the corner to Garfield and Cambridge streets in November and was in the process of selling the triple-decker, she said. Firefighters saw the for-sale sign out front when they arrived, acting fire Chief John Marsh said.
The house needed repairs, according to her son James Ford, and was boarded up. His mother faces financial difficulties and was hoping to sell the house to get out of debt, he said.
“There is no saving it,” Judith Ford said.
The blaze broke out at around 2:30 a.m. Two ladder trucks, four pumpers and a rescue vehicle, were sent to the scene, according Marsh. The Lowell Fire Department sent a third ladder truck while Andover and Methuen each contributed a pumper, Marsh said.
Dracut, Salem, N.H. and Haverhill crews covered the stations. Two hydrants near the fire were “marginal,” Marsh said, so extra hose had to be laid to another hydrant on Winthrop Avenue.
Deputy Chief Daniel Kennedy, who directed the initial firefighting operation, reported there were flames in the cellar and on the third floor, according to Marsh. The cause of the fire is under investigation, he said.
Marsh said he arrived at the scene at 3:45 a.m. and that the fire was under control before he left at 6 a.m.
James Ford, who lives in Billerica, visits his mother regularly and stopped in Saturday night. When he saw the flashing lights outside at around 2:30 a.m., his first thought was that a neighbor might have suffered an ill turn.
Then he looked outside and saw the smoke coming from his mother’s former home.
“Immediately I could see the smoke. I said ‘oh no!’ It was fully involved,” he said.
“It was engulfed in flames. It was horrible,” his mother said.
Judith and James Ford both said it was fortunate that no one was hurt or displaced. Marsh said no firefighters were injured.
The Fords said a glimmer of hope emerged from the fire. Four little kittens survived the blaze, Judith said. Her granddaughter adopted one of them and named it Garfield.