The Boston Fire Department responded to a nine-alarm blaze that started on the back deck of an apartment on Harvard Terrace Wednesday evening, which injured five firefighters and left 54 residents displaced from their homes.
Thick smoke billowed down Brighton Avenue, completely covering the street in a thick, black smog. The smell of the fire permeated through the area causing several people to cough and cover their faces.
After approximately 160 firefighters battled the large flames for about two hours, BFD was able to knock out the fire and begin their investigation into what caused the fire, said Steve MacDonald, BFD spokesman.
“Right now, he allowed no one into the building, so tomorrow [Thursday], we will assess the building,” he said. “We certainly don’t want anyone to get hurt at this stage, so they’ll take it slow and it’ll be a slow process.”
Eight Boston University students were displaced due to their residences proximity to the fire, but their apartments were not one of the units affected by the flames, said BU spokesman Colin Riley.
The Dean of Students reached out to those affected and the students were able to return to their apartments after the fire was put out, he said.
Five firefighters were treated by Boston Emergency Medical Services. Three were being treated at the scene and two were transported, one for a shoulder injury and the other for smoke inhalation, to a local hospital, according to the BFD Twitter. Two bystanders were also treated by EMS for minor injuries and transported to a hospital, MacDonald said.
“For the 54 displaced, we had the American Red Cross, the Mayor’s Office and the Fire Department’s assistance along with EMS,” MacDonald said. “We have some of the displaced up at Jackson High School in Union Square. “Others have found family and friends to stay with at least for the night.”
MacDonald said some residents could be out of their home for a week and others, whose apartments were directly affected by the flames, could forced out for at least a month.
Joe Pesaturo, spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said buses were sent to the scene to provide air conditioning for the displaced residents before they figured out their next step.
MacDonald said no students were affected by the fire.
“There doesn’t appear to be any students that we know of living in any of the three sections of the building,” he said. “For the most part, it was adults.”
Firefighters responded to 12-16 Harvard Terrace, near the intersection of Brighton Avenue and Harvard Avenue, at about 5:47 p.m., after reports of a heavy fire. Flames originated on a rear deck, spread rapidly up the back to the upper floors and burst through the roof. The fire itself was contained to 12 Harvard Terrace, which has six apartments, said Fire Commissioner Joseph E. Finn at a briefing.
8 and 16 Harvard Terrace suffered smoke and water damage. Finn gave an initial estimate of $2,000,000 in damages.
BFD will continue the investigation into the cause of the fire on Thursday and MacDonald said he will keep a couple of fire trucks on the scene throughout Wednesday night to make sure there are no flareups.
As of 6:30 p.m., officials had ordered all firefighters out of the structure out of concern of the building collapsing. Safety zones were established and the fire commissioner had taken command of the incident, MacDonald said.
The BFD requested a 2-block radius remain clear and Boston University advised students to stay away from the area, according to an emergency alert from BU.
Boston Police had closed Brighton Avenue from Harvard Street to Cambridge Street to prevent motor vehicles from interfering the firefighters, said David Estrada, BPD spokesman.
This is the first nine-alarm fire since the nine-alarm inferno that ripped through the Back Bay condominium at 298 Beacon St. on March 26, claiming the lives of Boston Fire Lieutenant Edward Walsh and firefighter Michael Kennedy.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh appeared at the scene for about an hour after the fire was knocked out, MacDonald said.
“He showed up the thank the firefighters for their support and talk to the people affected,” he said.
Chloe Vilain, 32, of Allston, said she was on Brighton Avenue when the fire broke out.
“I heard some sort of explosion,” she said. “That’s what it sounded like. It sounded like a loud popping noise, and then there was this plume of black smoke. Then people just started congregating on the other side of the street watching it. It just keeps getting worse and more crowded out here.”
Scott Matalon, 44, of Allston, said he was in contact with the owner of the building throughout the fire.
“The more they fight it, the more smoke they’re making,” Matalon said. “The fire department responded really rapidly, so kudos to them. They really did a great job.”
Kat Hess, 27, who lives at 9 Gardner St., said she was unable to re-enter her building due to its proximity to the fire.
“I was doing laundry and I smelled smoke, and I thought maybe it was a lint fire, so I turned it off and that wasn’t it,” she said. “So I went outside and then I saw all the smoke billowing down the street. My first thought was, at least it’s not our building.”