The structural integrity of a multi-family home in Worcester continues to hamper investigation efforts after a massive blaze tore through the building early Saturday morning, claiming at least four lives.
At first, officials reported that two people died and three were hurt, but two more bodies were found in the wreckage Monday, officials said.
The search through the building on Gage Street in the Bingham Square Apartments has been challenging, and investigators were initially only able to search some parts of it due to the collapse of the roof structure and severe fire damage, acting Fire Chief Martin Dyer said Monday.
"We still have not been able to cover much of the building," he said at a briefing at City Hall with other local leaders, as well as a representative of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Dyer also said that it's possible more victims could be found in the building. While they don't have strong information that would lead them to believe anyone else is still inside at this time, they won't know for sure until they can search the entire building.
"The building is not stable right now, so we are being meticulous in the way we approach the building. We have investigators working there now. They are removing debris by hand, so it's a very slow process," Dyer said. "The potential does exist for more victims."
The investigation remains ongoing, officials said, with the cause of the blaze still under investigation.
The death toll had been two, with three hurt, after the fire was extinguished. Dyer said Monday that four people were injured, including someone who jumped or fell from a window on the third floor.
Snakes were also discovered in the building during the recovery operation and removed by animal control officers. It wasn't immediately clear why the snakes were in the building.
It took over two hours for nearly 70 firefighters to get the fire under control, and only after it completely destroyed the three-story, six-family building where it started, Worcester fire officials said over the weekend.
Structural integrity issues kept firefighters from finishing a search of all three floors of the building. The fire also damaged two neighboring buildings on Eastern Avenue and Gage Street, officials said.
No firefighters were injured, authorities said. The Red Cross was helping families displaced by the blaze.
Amanda Langevin lives just a few doors down and says she knows one man who lived in the building but was able to get out in time after someone knocked on his door.
"Him and his better half, they got out and got they got their dogs out," she said. "Unfortunately, I think they had three cats in there and they weren't able to save them."
The names of the victims have not been released.
"I send my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims," Mayor Joseph Petty said in a statement Saturday. "Tragedies such as this affect so many lives and our city will no doubt come together to support those who are suffering from such an unimaginable loss."