, Salem, MA

January 8, 2014

Peabody fire displaces several people

Blaze in four-unit building blamed on electrical cord

By Neil H. Dempsey
Staff Writer

---- — PEABODY — Sixteen-year-old Ben Jutras was hanging out in the living room of his family’s Proctor Street apartment while his mom was out doing errands yesterday when he sensed something was amiss in her room.

“I can’t explain it,” Jutras said yesterday, as firefighters with axes streamed in and out the front door of his blackened home after they’d extinguished a blaze there. “I heard it.”

Realizing that what he’d heard was a fire, Jutras rushed his brother Marcus, 13, and sister Cecelia, 7, out of their first-floor unit and into the street, where the temperature about 3:30 p.m. was just barely in the double digits. They went to a neighbor’s house, and he phoned 911.

Lt. Tracy Collins and firefighter Mike McKiernan with Engine 1 arrived on scene first to find heavy flames coming from the bedroom window, which had burst, said Deputy fire Chief Paul Hinchion. Nobody, aside from Jutras and his two siblings, was home in the four-unit building at the time.

Firefighters broke more windows to vent the blaze, and Engine 3 ran a line into the building, as a crowd of neighbors and ambulance personnel gathered across the street. The fire was quickly extinguished.

“It was 10 degrees,” Hinchion said. “They did a nice job of getting in there and putting it right out.”

There were no injuries during the blaze, which was contained to the bedroom, but it caused smoke damage to the rest of the apartment and to the floors above it. The first-floor unit also sustained water damage. Hinchion estimated the total damage at $30,000.

Hinchion applauded Jutras for getting his family out of the house safely.

“He could’ve freaked out a little,” he said. “He did a very good job controlling himself and getting the kids out of there.”

All of the building’s residents, including a family of two on the second floor and at least one person on the fourth, were temporarily displaced. Hinchion said it was likely that the first-floor residents would be unable to return for a while. The third floor was vacant.

A Red Cross volunteer responded to the fire scene and provided Jutras and his family with funds for clothing and food, in addition to bedding and linen. Anti-smoke detergent was also provided, as were “comfort kits” with assorted toiletries.

“We also gave them two Mickey Mouse dolls,” said Ashley Studley, a Red Cross spokeswoman.

The family was staying with friends last night. The other people in the building had also made arrangements, Studley said.

Fire Inspector Joe DeFranco determined that the blaze had likely started because of a faulty power cord leading to a television and lamp in the bedroom, Hinchion said.

Jutras said at the scene that he was concerned that two cats were unaccounted for, but Hinchion said later that they’d been located “hiding under the bed in one of the other bedrooms.” A cat on the second floor also emerged unscathed.

The 31/2 story building at 9 Proctor St. was built in 1900, according to property records.

Beverly, Lynnfield and Lynn provided station coverage during the incident.

Neil H. Dempsey can be reached at