SALEM — An early alarm and almost instantaneous response by firefighters likely prevented extensive damage Thursday afternoon from a fire in the basement of the three-story apartment building at 12-14 Summer St.

Deputy Chief Keith Pelletier said the first alarm came in at 2:10 p.m., followed almost immediately by a phone call reporting smoke in the early 1900s wood-frame apartment building.

Pelletier said first units were on scene within four minutes.

He was the first firefighter to enter the building was met by a resident who told him the floor was smoking.

Pelletier, who had seen smoke pouring out of the basement windows as he arrived, told the man the building was on fire and he'd better get out.

The fire – confined mainly to the basement with some flames spreading to the first floor – was extinguished within about 10 minutes, and firefighters spent most of their time chasing hotspots and looking for possible areas where it may have spread between the walls.

Pelletier said there were no injuries — for firefighters or residents — and all of the occupants at home at the time were able to escape the building without problem.

Although the bulk of the fire damage was in the basement, Pelletier said, there was extensive damage to the electrical and plumbing systems in the basement. Because of that, he said, all 18 occupants of the 16-unit building will be forced to find other lodgings until repairs are made.

The Red Cross is working to find quarters for the residents and trying to meet their immediate needs.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, nor has an estimate of the damages.



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