BY TOM DALTON
---- — BEVERLY — It took firefighters nearly two hours to get control of a fierce and stubborn blaze that ravaged a single-family home on Corning Street.
The two-alarm fire at 18 Corning St., a residential road near the Montserrat train station, appeared to have started in the garage and spread to the second floor and attic.
The blaze was called in at 5:51 p.m. and appeared under control when 10-foot flames suddenly erupted from the roof and back of the house shortly before 7 p.m.
More than two dozen firefighters from several communities fought the fire from the roof, inside the Cape-style home and from the ground, but flames moved from one part of the house to another as thick black smoke billowed from the roof and attic windows, drawing a large crowd on the normally quiet street.
Beverly Deputy Fire Chief Bill Petrosino called it a “significant loss.”
Fire officials said they don’t know the cause of the fire or its point of origin. An investigation is underway.
The three-bedroom home, which was built around 1937, is assessed at $425,600, according to city records. It is owned by Francis and Mary DeLeo, according to police.
Nobody was home at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported.
Neighbors said the fire appeared to have started in the garage and had gotten worse after a series of “explosions.”
“Something inside the garage was kind of exploding when it first went up,” said David Huth, 46.
Theresa McGovern, 35, who lives across the street, had just returned from a jog when she saw flames in the garage and heard loud “explosion sounds.”
A business van parked near the one-car garage, which also was damaged, had the words “Liberty Interiors” on the side. The company’s website indicates it is a Beverly-based painting business owned by Fran DeLeo.
The fire was first reported by Lt. Jim Archibald, an off-duty firefighter who lives nearby.
“His son told him he smelled smoke,” said Beverly Deputy Fire Chief Peter O’Connor. “As (Archibald) saw the smoke and started toward the area, he made the call to 911.”
Fire officials said the blaze was well underway by the time they arrived, which made it difficult to get under control.
“The garage was going when we got there,” said Petrosino. “It was running right up the side of the house.”
As the fire moved into the attic and eaves, firefighters attacked it from all sides. Several firefighters mounted a ladder and fought the blaze from on top of the house, cutting a hole in roof to vent the flames and smoke.
When a rear section of the home burst into flames, more firefighters climbed ladders and fought from the roof of a porch in back.
Petrosino praised the hard work of firefighters, who also responded from Danvers, Salem, Wenham and Manchester-by-the-Sea.
At one point, firefighters began removing what appeared to be antique furniture from the home, placing it on the front lawn not far from a pile of used Scott air-paks. The air-paks are used by firefighters to breathe in heavy smoke.
Shortly before 8 p.m., with the fire apparently out, two firefighters entered the garage with flashlights.
Around 8:30 p.m., the skies opened up and thundershowers drenched the charred scene.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.