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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Conflagration Burns Block in East Cambridge


Multiple ladders working over the Cambridge Fire

A fire broke out in East Cambridge on Saturday, Dec. 3. The fire broke out just before 3 p.m. and grew until a 10-alarm fire was raging down the block in the neighborhood. Firefighters from 25 communities within the metro-Boston area were called in via a collective mutual aid system to assist Cambridge firefighters both at the scene and at the Cambridge fire stations.

Each alarm called for an additional three engine companies and one more ladder company.

The fire began in a three-story home on Berkshire St. that was undergoing renovations, and the fire started nearby while workers were at the site. From the Berkshire St. home, the fire spread to surrounding buildings. Firefighters later reported that the house collapsed as a result of the fire.

Gerald Reardon, Chief of the Cambridge Fire Department, originally reported that while at least 60 people were displaced because of the fire, no one had suffered serious injuries. City officials later announced that a total of 122 people were displaced by the fire. Officials reported that a few people had suffered minor injuries, which included a firefighter and a Cambridge police officer, both of whom suffered from smoke inhalation and received medical attention at the scene.

Reardon told the Boston Globe that one of the issues with responding to the fire was that firefighters had to deal with getting equipment down the narrow streets of the neighborhood. Firefighters also had to deal with winds that were 25 miles per hour around 5 p.m.

Deputy Chief Michael Morrissey of the Cambridge Fire Department told the Boston Globe that upon arrival of the first companies, Cambridge police officers had already started telling residents to evacuate, which helped the firefighters. Morrissey, as incident commander of the fire, determined that going into the fire would be too dangerous because of high heat and flames. Instead, he ordered firefighters to cover the surrounding streets, and work to contain the fire until it could be put out completely.

Morrissey reported that once firefighters surrounded the fire, only one additional building caught fire due to flying pieces of wood kicked up by the winds. The other 10 buildings were damaged by the fire’s heat, but they were not touched by the flames.

The area experienced power outages, as Eversource cut two circuits close to the fire, and multiple power crews lined the surrounding streets.

As a result of the fire, those who were displaced by the flames were moved to two makeshift shelters run by the American Red Cross, one in the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, and the other in the nearby War Memorial Recreation Center. The shelters offered the displaced residents food, a place to sleep, and a place to get religious counseling. Media outlets were not allowed into the two shelters, to give residents some privacy. The American Red Cross also offered mental health and medical services at the War Memorial Recreation Center.

Despite the set up in the high school, none of the beds were used, as residents ended up staying in several hotels in Cambridge.

The fire produced thick smoke that was easily smelled in the nearby area. Jeremy Warnick, the spokesperson for the Cambridge Police Department, told the Boston Globe that 15 buildings were damaged. Three of them, Warnick reported, would have to be razed.

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter blew up with messages showing concern. People have even offered to take in the displaced residents. In addition to people updating their statuses, Facebook used its “Safety Check” feature which allows people to let their friends know that they are okay.

Denise E. Simmons, the Mayor of Cambridge, tweeted out, thanking people for their questions as to where they could donate clothing and other goods. She asked people to give to the Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund at Cambridge City Hall. Simmons told the public that the fund takes donations online, as well in person or through the mail. Cambridge city officials noted that the fund would also take gift certificates to grocery stores and department stores.

By 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, 500 people online pledged to give more than $34,000 to the Fire Relief Fund. By Tuesday evening, the number was more than $510,000.

State Representative Marjorie Decker, who went to the shelters to help out, told the Boston Globe, “This is Cambridge, we come together. We take care of one another.”
While fire officials have yet to determine the cause of the fire, Deputy Chief Morrissey told the Boston Globe that based on the findings so far, the fire appeared to be accidental, and that it supposedly started in the three-floor building in the progress of renovation.