Shortly after 4 a.m. Sunday, Alector Tavares said he heard a scream down the street from his house in Mattapan. Tavares, a 34-year-old firefighter, quickly threw on a robe and rushed outside.
The first thing he saw, he said, was smoke coming out of a home three houses down from his.
“So I run up, and at this point, I see something burning on the ground, like clothes,” Tavares said. “We come to find out later that, actually, the gentlemen who lives down in the basement was grabbing things on fire in the house and trying to put them out.”
The fire Tavares witnessed occurred at 74 Wildwood St., a 2 ½-story occupied residential building in Mattapan. The two-alarm fire caused approximately $150,000 in damages and displaced 17 residents, according to the Boston Fire Department Twitter page.
Boston police officer Steven McNulty confirmed in an email that the fire resulted in damages and displacement.
Tavares said the man who he spotted trying to remove burning items from his home ended up with second-degree burns on his hand.
The BFD announced via Twitter Sunday morning that one resident was transported by Boston Emergency Medical Services to the hospital with minor burns. Tavares said the man who he spotted trying to remove burning items from his home ended up with second-degree burns on his hand.
No additional injuries have been reported, according to the tweet.
Before fire trucks arrived at the scene, Tavares said he and residents from neighboring homes attempted to alert the residents inside the building about the fire.
“Everybody is knocking on the doors yelling screaming trying to get the people’s attention upstairs because the house, at this point, is completely filled up with smoke,” Tavares said. “You could see how frantic the fire was because there’s people coming out barefoot. There was no time to go back for anything.”
As residents fled the building, some from fire escapes, Tavares said he rushed back to his house to put on sweatpants and a shirt “in case [he] had to go in” to help the residents inside the burning building.
Once the fire department arrived, Tavares said he took it upon himself to make sure every resident of the building was accounted for.
“What I did was pick a person that was an adult from each floor and made sure to ask, ‘Are your kids here, is everyone here?’” Tavares said, “and they say ‘Yes,’ and I went down each floor to get everybody.”
Tavares said getting the displaced residents proper clothing for the cold October weather was an issue, as many had fled barefoot or without jackets.
“I grabbed everything, all the clothes I could, and gave it to them,” he said. “I just got two new packs of socks for my birthday, and I just handed it to them, and you could see the relief: they just put it on, the sweatpants, the coats. It really helped.”
The Red Cross arrived 45 minutes after the start of the fire with blankets for the residents, according to Tavares.
Even after the fire was contained, Tavares said he stayed with the residents, allowing some of them to sit in his car with the heat on so they could stay warm.
“I would love somebody to do that for my family if something happened,” he said.
Some of the residents Tavares spoke to Sunday morning were unsure about how they were going to pay for the damages to their homes, he said.
“They didn’t know that they needed renter’s insurance,” Tavares said. “I think some people were under the impression that the landlord covers it.”
Roudnie Celestin, Mayor Martin Walsh’s community liaison for Mattapan and the Haitian community, said she was also present early Sunday morning to help the displaced residents.
“That’s one of Mayor Walsh’s priorities,” Celestin said. “We have the Office of Housing Stability that makes sure everyone in the city has a place to stay.”
Celestin said she received a call between 4 and 5 a.m. Sunday about the fire and immediately went to the scene to help the residents. Celestin is Haitian, she said, so she went to the scene to communicate in Haitian Creole with families affected by the fire to make them feel more comfortable.
Celestin said she helped collect demographic and contact information from the residents to pass along to the Office of Housing Stability that will then follow up directly with residents to place them in temporary housing or extend hotel stays.
As of late Monday afternoon, Celestin said she was unsure how long the residents were expected to be displaced.
A BFD spokesperson said the fire was still under investigation and that there were no additional details to report about how or where the fire originated as of Monday afternoon.