NORTH ANDOVER — Two, nearly simultaneous fires broke out in the Merrimack Valley yesterday morning.

In North Andover, firefighters responded to a report of a chimney fire at 894 Great Pond Road, when a fire was reported in a triple-decker on Howard Street in Lawrence.

When Lawrence requested mutual aid from North Andover, the neighboring department couldn't oblige because it had its hands full.

Instead, firefighters were called in from Middleton to cover Lawrence's central fire station, while Lawrence firefighters were busy at the Prospect Hill fire.

"We were out there about the same time as the Lawrence fire," said Lt. Bob Kilcoyne of the North Andover department. "We had just opened up the walls when they called for help."

Kilcoyne said flames were in the walls surrounding the brick chimney. He said the house was built in the 1700s and that there was a buildup of creosote.

Firefighters had to rip out the walls and brick around the mantel of the fireplace to reach hot spots.

The fire was put out with little damage. There is some structural damage to the mantel, Kilcoyne said.

Meanwhile, the Middleton firefighters who backed up Lawrence were busy themselves. There were at least two emergency calls, including a car accident.

The acting fire chief in Lawrence told The Eagle-Tribune that there was some delay in responding to the Howard Street fire. He cited the closure of a nearby fire station and the fact that North Andover firefighters were busy as being two reasons for the delay in responding to the fire.

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