SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 4, 2013

Fire rips through home

Two firefighters injured, dog dies in Swampscott blaze

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — SWAMPSCOTT — Two firefighters sustained minor injuries after a stubborn, smoky three-alarm fire tore through a single-family home at 50 Andrew Road yesterday morning, displacing a family of six.

Fire officials said below-freezing temperatures hampered firefighting efforts.

While the family, a couple and four children, were not home when the fire was reported just after 9 a.m., a dog inside perished, fire officials said. Two pet rabbits in a hutch outside were rescued.

Two firefighters suffered minor injures and were treated at Salem Hospital and released, fire Capt. Kevin Thompson said.

The house has been deemed “uninhabitable,” Thompson said. The cause remains under investigation.

“It is very stubborn,” Deputy fire Chief James Potts said around 11:45 a.m. in a short press conference.

“We have it contained,” he added when asked if the fire was out.

Shortly before Potts spoke, a Marblehead Animal Control officer accompanied two firefighters, one with breathing apparatus strapped to his back, as they carried the body of the family pet wrapped in a blanket to a vehicle parked on Paradise Road.

“They lost a pet,” Potts said, “confirmed, a dog.”

When firefighters arrived, heavy smoke and fire billowed out the back of the house, which can be seen from Paradise Road. The property is assessed at $367,300 and has been owned by Peter and Laura Ghirardini since 2003, town records show.

“I don’t believe anyone was home when we arrived,” Potts said.

Yesterday’s frigid temperatures hampered efforts to put out the fire. Potts said the hydrant closest to the home, on the corner of Paradise Road, was frozen when crews tried to hook up to it.

“I ordered people out of the building more than once today,” Potts said, “once because of a frozen hydrant.”

Thompson said firefighters found another hydrant 150 yards away and ran a line to it.

“That had water,” Thompson said of the second hydrant, “but unfortunately, that had pressure problems.”

“All our resources were diverted to getting water to the main pump,” Potts said.

Police closed Paradise Road for several hours between Elmwood and Ellis roads as hoses snaked across the normally busy roadway, which carries Route 1A traffic. Crews also ran a line down Andrew Road to reach a hydrant at the far end of the street, which runs into Thomas, Farragut and Walker roads.

Firefighters also faced slippery ice created by pouring water on the fire, so extra manpower was called from surrounding communities, Thompson said.

In addition to Swampscott firefighters, crews from Salem, Revere, Nahant, Beverly, Marblehead and Lynn responded, along with Roger Baker’s Rehab Five unit to provide assistance.

The first crews that went into the building knocked down most of the fire on the first floor before being ordered out, Thompson said.

When they got back inside, the fire had spread throughout the second floor and the attic. The problem in older buildings is fire spreads through voids in the walls. The “old style” wood-frame house was built around 1910, according to records.

“We play catch-up trying to catch up with it,” Thompson said. The only area that did not burn was the cellar.

The second time Potts ordered firefighters out, he did so with repeated blasts of a horn. Flames could be seen shooting several feet in the air from the roof near the chimney, and black smoke blanketed the neighborhood.

At one point, a Lynn ladder truck turned on its water cannon mounted at the top of the ladder and accidentally sprayed onlookers. Firefighters re-entered the house as the cannon shot water down into the roof.

A resident who lives several doors down from the fire, Ralph Souppa, said he talked to the next-door neighbor, who discovered the fire. The neighbor knew the home had a dog inside.

“As soon as he got the door open, he couldn’t see anything,” Souppa said. The immediate neighbor then called 911.

At just past 11 a.m., after it appeared the fire was out, flames could be seen poking out from just under the eaves. Four firefighters climbed on the roof of the front porch, set another ladder to the roof and sprayed water on the flames. Water could also be seen shooting out of the roof from inside.

One firefighter suffered a hand injury that required stitches, Thompson said, and he was taken to Salem Hospital. Another firefighter, a woman, suffered a shoulder injury and was also transported to the hospital. Both firefighters, whom Thompson declined to name, were treated and released, and the firefighter with the hand injury was relieved of duty.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.