A woman was killed and five people were hospitalized Tuesday morning following a four-alarm fire in Pepperell, Massachusetts, authorities said.
The fire started at a six-unit apartment building, believed to be some 100 years old, at about 8:30 a.m.
The blaze was spotted by an off-duty lieutenant who saw smoke coming from an apartment at 50 Main St. as he was leaving a grocery store, according to Pepperell Fire Department Chief Brian Borneman.
When crews arrived, the fire quickly escalated to four alarms as heavy smoke and flames continued to pour from the building.
Neighbors said they watched helplessly as the husband of a disabled woman on the first floor tried to get back inside to save her.
"He tried to run over to that house and they had to practically tackle him, you know what I mean. It was so sad," neighbor Dana Fairweather recalled.
The woman died in the blaze. Authorities had yet to release her identity.
The woman's husband and four firefighters were taken to an area hospital for heat exhaustion.
Sandra Govoni said the man who spotted the fire forced her son, who was fast asleep after working third shift, to come to the door.
"There was a gentleman that knocked on his door at 8:30 this morning - pounding on his door - waking him up because he had just gone to bed two hours before that," Govoni said. "You don't know how grateful I am that my son is OK."
Fourteen area fire departments eventually helped bring the blaze under control in the extremely intense heat.
"This was a very involved fire that required significant manpower to bring under control," Borneman said. "I'm grateful for the work of all our partner agencies who supported the response effort, as well as the State Fire Marshal's Office and District Attorney's Office for their leadership in investigating."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation but it is believed to be accidential.
As a result of the fire, 8 residents were displaced.