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|Up to 20 homeless after fire||Monday, January 15, 2007|
|Norman Miller 508-626-3823||Metrowest Daily News|
FRAMINGHAM - As many as 20 people were left homeless when a fire tore
through an Avon Street apartment building yesterday afternoon.
Fire officials say firefighters had no chance to stop the blaze before it grew out of control because the department was not called immediately.
"We are questioning why it took so long for the information to get to us," said Assistant Fire Chief John Magri. "It was going real good when we got here, and half of the second floor is missing. The fire had a good foothold upon our arrival. The fire inside was out of control."
When firefighters arrived on 2-4 Avon St. around 2:20 p.m., the flames were so intense the heat could be felt across the street. Magri said flames were shooting out of at least six windows.
As dozens of onlookers watched, firefighters first tried to battle the blaze from inside the house, but were quickly evacuated. Firefighters then used water cannons and a ladder truck to attack the fire.
Firefighters were put in danger, Magri said, by a rabbit warren of "illegal occupancies" throughout the home.
"We found beds in closets, basements Ä they (firefighters) even found a futon and a cot in the attic," he said. "It's certainly more dangerous when you have illegal occupancies because our rescue efforts have to be extended.
"Life safety is our number one goal. Illegal apartments, and any type of illegal construction, increases the spread of fire and creates voids that make it difficult to work around," Magri said.
The blaze appears to have been caused by a space heater on the second floor, Magri said.
Up to 20 people live in the 2-story, two-family home. Everyone was out of the building when firefighters arrived.
The building department was called because of the possible illegal apartments, Magri said.
Late yesterday afternoon, acting Building Commissioner Mike Foley said he had not had time to inspect the building to see if there were any illegal apartments. He said he would have a better idea today.
The fire also quickly spread throughout the 127-year-old house because the slate roof and asbestos siding trapped the heat inside, Magri said.
"It made it like an oven," he said. "The hotter the interior temperature, the faster the fire spreads. It causes combustible material to flame over quickly."
It took 26 firefighters using three engines and two ladder trucks 45 minutes to get the fire under control. Flames were still seen as late as 5 p.m.
By the time firefighters got the blaze under control, the building's second floor was little more than a shell. Support beams could be seen jutting from the burned roof, while melted and charred siding hung limply from the exterior walls.
The building is owned by Murilo A. Da Silva. He bought the home in 2004 for $395,000. According to the town's assessors department, the building is valued at $227,100, while the land is worth $185,600.
Fire investigators could be seen interviewing a man who residents and neighbors identified as the building's landlord.
The man refused to comment last night, and refused to give his name but he was interviewed by police and fire officials in a truck advertising a handyman service with an e-mail address that included the phrase "murilo."
The American Red Cross was called to the scene last night to help those who were left homeless.
The fire was contained to the top two floors of the house, but the first floor sustained significant smoke and water damage, Magri said.
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