Fire officials said unattended cooking may be to blame for a fast-moving fire in Lynn, Massachusetts, that left one woman injured and 28 other residents homeless on Monday night. Now, two firefighters are discussing their incredible rescue.
The fire, which broke out at a large multi-unit apartment complex on Broad Street in Lynn shortly before 4 p.m. and reached 4-alarms, was likely caused by an unattended cooking fire in a third-floor apartment, according to Lynn Fire Chief James McDonald.
With the fire raging, veteran firefighters Bobby Lehman and Derek Spitaleri rushed into the building to search for survivors.
The two got to the third floor, and entered one unit, determining that is where the fire started.
"There was zero visibility inside her apartment," they said. "Conditions were changing very quickly."
Dropping to their knees, Lehman and Spitaleri crawled through the apartment, with smoke and fire above them.
That is when they heard a moan coming from the bedroom. The two crawled into the room, finding a woman, said to be in her 60s, on the bed.
"Bobby and I carried her down to the second-floor landing, where it was a little safer," Spitaleri said. "I took my air mask off, and immediately put it on the victim. Turned my purge valve on, so there would be a constant flow of air and we carried her the rest of the way out of the building down to this first-floor landing."
The woman was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital. Her current condition is not known.
"At the end of the day, we were in the right place at the right time," Lehman said.
The building, which was built in the late 1800s, is now a charred shell and will have to be torn down.
"Because of the state of the building, the state of that third floor now, they're limited as to what investigation they can do inside the building at this time," said Lynn District Chief Stephen Archer.
Twenty-eight other residents were able to get out of the building, most on their own, McDonald said.
Resident Thomas Rezendes said he was woken up by a quick-thinking Good Samaritan.
"My next door neighbor came knocking on the door and knocked on the lady's door that the fire was coming from, and she opened up. As soon as she opened up the door the whole building went," recalled Rezendes.
McDonald said the fire appears to have started on the third floor. He said the woman who was injured lived on the top floor.
Aerial footage from NBC Boston's Sky Ranger helicopter showed firefighters on the roof as heavy black smoke poured from windows and vents. McDonald said crews pulled back just as flames erupted from the roof of the building.
Neighbors said the fire appeared to be just a little smoke until it rapidly grew, engulfing the building.
"Everything just happened so fast," said one resident of the building. "And by the time I got outside that whole side was just black smoke."
As of 7 p.m., the roof of the building appeared to have completely collapsed, and chunks of the walls could be seen falling from the building as firefighters continued to douse the structure with water.
Lynn Mayor Thomas M. McGee said the city is working with the American Red Cross to help the displaced residents.
"We're trying to help them get through this awful event that they're dealing with — losing their home — looks like a complete loss," McGee said.
The fire remains under investigation.