4 rescued from fire in 10-story condo building in Boston; blaze brought under control

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

4 rescued from fire in Boston condo building

BOSTON — Four people were rescued and taken to a hospital Wednesday after a fire at a 10-story condominium building, fire officials said.

Investigators believe the blaze at a building in Boston’s Back Bay began in a seventh-floor unit with smoke quickly spreading to the eighth floor, fire Chief Ronald Keating said. The cause of the fire remained under investigation, he said.

After firefighters arrived to the scene, Keating said residents on the lower floors escaped down stairways while residents on the top three floors were taken to the roof of the building, which is more than 100 years old.

“We had a tremendous amount of difficulty moving inside the building because the building is so old,” with narrow stairways, said Keating after the fire was put out.

It was unclear how many of the building’s 174 residents were home when the fire broke out in the early afternoon; Keating said many of them are college and university students. Four residents were being evaluated at a hospital, but their conditions were not immediately known.

Commissioner Roderick Fraser said one firefighter also was taken to a hospital after complaining of chest pains.

Keating said the building had no sprinklers because it was built before they were required.

The blaze was the first time in several years the department had struck nine alarms for a fire, department spokesman Steve MacDonald said. Officials said they did so as a precaution to make sure there was sufficient manpower at the scene.

Kim Finucane, who lives on the sixth floor, made her way down the stairs after hearing a fire alarm go off and smelling smoke.

“There were flames coming out of the side of the window and debris coming down like crazy,” said Finucane, a student at the New England College of Optometry.

The fire closed the busy intersection of Beacon Street and Massachusetts Avenue.

Richard Steffenhagen, 63, a retiree, said he has been a resident in the building for 25 years and was in his 10th floor unit when the fire broke out. He escaped by walking down the building’s stairs.

“I was doing mental exercises,” said Steffenhagen, “telling myself to be calm.”

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