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Burnt ‘Hamp Building Razed

Fire, 277 Crescent St., Northampton
Photo courtesy Goshen Fire Department

Source: The Republican (Springfield, MA)

Author: NANCY H. GONTER; ngonter@repub.com

NORTHAMPTON, MA – The sprint Lou R. Davis made Saturday back to his burning apartment building where his mother, wife and two children were was his fastest ever.

Davis, who lived with his wife, Jennifer, and sons Asher, 2, and Isaac, 4 months, at 277 Crescent St., found his family on the street in front of the house with only the clothes on their backs and a stroller.

By the night’s end, everything the family owned in their seven-room, third-floor apartment was up in smoke, the result of a fire that spread undetected up the walls of the circa 1900 building and into the attic.

“I’ve never run so fast in my life. I’ve had a kidney and liver transplant. I was just so scared. Losing everything is nothing. It’s the people you love,” said Davis, who is vice president at Market Street Research.

Davis and his family, who yesterday watched their building demolished by a giant piece of heavy equipment, are just four of the 14 people left homeless after the fire in the seven-apartment building, which was first reported at 3:10 p.m.

Fire Chief Brian T. Duggan said when firefighters arrived after a 911 call, they found smoke coming from the chimney and some smoke in the house and quickly extinguished a fire in the basement.

But because of the building’s “balloon construction” with the walls open from the basement to the attic, the fire had spread quickly, he said.

“It’s like a flue,” Duggan said of the building’s walls.

Ten places inside the building were found to have hidden fire in the walls, and firefighters began opening the walls, but the fire was already ahead of them, he said.

More than two hours after firefighters arrived on the scene, Duggan was forced to order all firefighters out of the building “based on risk to firefighters.”

Firefighters from Holyoke, Easthampton, Amherst, Goshen, Williamsburg, Westhampton, Hadley, South Hadley and Hatfield assisted.

Firefighters remained on the scene through the night, and yesterday, after the building was demolished, firefighters had to move in again and put out the flames coming from the rubble.

Three firefighters were injured, one with an eye injury, one with second-degree burns and a third who suffered chest pains and dehydration. The men, whom officials declined to identify, were treated and released from Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

The cause of the fire, believed to have started in the basement, is under investigation, Duggan said.

Also under investigation is why the fire alarm system in the building did not work. The system had been repaired recently, and investigators will be asking for repair records, Duggan said. Many residents got out of the house when a second-floor tenant alerted them.

Kim Rescia, whose family has owned the building for more than 30 years, said the building was insured.

“None of the people got hurt. That’s the bottom line of what happened,” he said.

Davis and his family were preparing to move to a house they had purchased at Bancroft and Crescent streets. They will stay with his parents in Amherst until renovations are done in a month.

Lou and Jennifer Davis, holding their baby, whom they call Izzy, watched as the house was turned into a pile of rubble.

“Bye, house,” Jennifer Davis said as they turned and walked away.

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