SALEM — Officials are investigating whether the two-alarm blaze on Dow Street on Tuesday morning could have been set, and they are soliciting donations of clothing and money for the 45 people it displaced.
The fire started shortly after 1 a.m. on a first-floor porch at the rear of the U-shaped brick building at 60 Dow St. As firefighters worked to extinguish it, they rescued one man from a fourth-floor window with the bucket of a ladder truck. He sustained burns to his hand, and two other people were treated for smoke inhalation.
No other injuries were reported.
The fire department originally didn’t think the fire was intentionally set, but Deputy fire Chief Glen Beaudet said an arson investigator had returned to the scene yesterday after “more information” came to light. Beaudet declined to divulge that information but said the development wasn’t a physical clue found at the scene.
Beaudet estimated that the fire caused $50,000 in property damage and $50,000 in damage to personal belongings.
The blaze affected a total of seven occupied units, but as many as four of them could be habitable again as early as tomorrow, once electricity is hooked back up, according to Dominick Pangallo, chief of staff for Mayor Kim Driscoll.
The residents who were displaced were sheltered by the Red Cross at the Senior Center on Broad Street. The organization also provided them with credit cards to purchase food and clothing and later offered them two free nights at Spring Hill Suites in Peabody.
Three of the 45 opted to stay elsewhere, said Ashley Studley, a Red Cross spokesperson.
“Some people had another place to stay,” Studley said.
As far as long-term solutions, the Salem Housing Authority is working to help several of the tenants who have Section 8 vouchers or were already seeking housing through it. The father of another displaced family is on active duty in Afghanistan, and they are being assisted by Kim Emerling of the city’s veterans council.