Boston Fire Marshall Dep. Chief Jack Kempsey and Lt. Tom Murray provided further details regarding the deadly Hanover Street fire on Thanksgiving Eve as well as last year’s Christmas morning fire on Hull Street. The discussion was held at the December meeting of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA).
On Hanover Street, the fire that killed two residents in November was caused by careless use of smoking materials according to the fire officials. A young man jumped from a window before BFD arrived on the scene and died from his injuries. Response time is generally 3-4 minutes by Boston Fire. In a fire situation, officials said that trapped individuals should shut doors, block smoke with towels and wait for rescue.
In answer to questions, fire officials do not believe lack of access to rear of the building was an impediment to BFD’s response to the fire. Some hallways within the building may have been partially blocked though fire officials said several people were able to use the main stairs to leave from the upper floors even after the fire had begun to spread. Other residents were removed by ladder through windows.
Officials said a second egress did exist within the building, including a party balcony, but may not have been utilized. On the second floor, a resident who died may have stayed too long and became trapped while trying to put out the fire. Smoke alarms apparently did go off in the building, according to Dempsey, although some residents may have not immediately responded. Officials emphasized there are only a few minutes to escape once a fire starts to spread.
The fire marshall reviewed important fire safety procedures, many specific to the North End including “party” fire escapes that connect to abutting buildings and how to flee from burning buildings. In the case of the Hanover Street blaze, the fire wall held between the buildings resulting in almost no damage to abutting structures. Dempsey also reviewed new smoke alarm regulations regarding photoelectric detectors.
Regarding the fire at 52 Hull Street on December 25, 2016, an investigation is still ongoing regarding the destruction of the 4-story residential building at the corner of Snowhill Street in Boston’s North End. No one was home at the time and there were no injuries. Officials were hesitant to say much until the investigation was concluded, other than to note the poor condition of the structure has impeded their progress. Restoration work has been ordered on the building and is currently being performed.
View the video above for a detailed discussion with fire officials.