By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — Damage estimates are not yet available for the destruction caused by a two-alarm fire Feb. 24 at a public elderly housing complex on Charter Street.
However, “I can tell you it will be significant,” Carol MacGown, Salem Housing Authority executive director, said yesterday. “There was very little fire damage but significant water damage.”
The cause of the fire has been determined as accidental — “careless disposal” of a cigarette, said fire Lt. Tim Flynn, who investigated the fire with Salem police Detective Charlene Sano.
The fire broke out on the third floor of 27 Charter St. around 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 24. A resident had pushed a burning chair out into a hall, which set off fire alarms for the entire building. The 12-story building, an elderly housing complex owned by the Salem Housing Authority, was evacuated for several hours.
“We appreciate all the (emergency) responders,” MacGown said. “It could have been a lot worse, and nobody got hurt.”
As of yesterday, five residents remained displaced — by choice — and were staying with family, MacGown said. They are able to return to their apartments but have opted to stay away because contractors were in and out doing repairs and cleaning, she said.
For the first week, the housing authority put three displaced residents up in a hotel. The last displaced resident, the person who lives in the unit where the fire started, returned from a hotel stay Tuesday, MacGown said.
“The residents have been great, very cooperative,” MacGown said. “They are a close-knit group (that) watches out for each other.”
After the fire, dehumidifiers were brought in to dry out water damage. The building’s elevator was initially knocked out of order, but it was fixed the next day, MacGown said.
The housing authority does not plan to bring any charges or fines against the resident who lives in the apartment where the fire started, MacGown said.
She said she anticipated some damage will be covered by insurance, but the housing authority may have to absorb some costs.
The building, with 110 apartments, is across Charter Street from the Peabody Essex Museum, near Hawthorne Boulevard.