Woman seriously burned in $1m North End fire that heavily damaged residential building; 13 homeless

Chris Marchal said he will never forget what he saw on a North End sidewalk late Tuesday night—a severely burned woman stumbled out of a burning building, her hair smoldering, her body covered with black soot, her clothes shredded and torn.

“She was in pain, but more shock than anything,’’ Marchal, 19, said today. And then he heard her say in a surprisingly calm voice, “ ‘Help me. help me.’ ”

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He added, “The only thing that even resembled someone was her eyes, her blue eyes. She was Caucasian, but that was the only thing white about her, her eyes.’’

Marchal, who lives on Commercial Street, said he was among a couple of people drawn to a massive fire inside 26 Cooper St., a fire that eventually required some 100 Boston firefighters to be sent to the scene as part of a four-alarm response.

The burn victim was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital with serious burns. Her identity has not been released.

According to Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald, the blaze broke out at 11 p.m. Tuesday, destroying that building and causing smoke damage in 28 Cooper St. and 29 North Margin St. He said 13 people were left homeless.

“The firefighters made a good stop,” said MacDonald. The fire was confined to 26 Cooper St.

Boston firefighters battle North End fire (Boston Fire)

The front stairway of the apartment building was incinerated and flames shot through the roof at the height of the fire which took nearly two hours to bring under control. MacDonald estimated it could be a year before residents could move back into the building.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. All residents were also able to escape the building, MacDonald said.

At the scene early this morning, Michael Allen, 23, of Boston, who was visiting his friend in the building next door, said he walked outside for a late-night snack and saw the fire engulf the building’s top floors within minutes.

Allen said he and another passerby helped two young women jump out of a first-floor window.

“I was walking out to get a pizza when I heard screams,” he said. “We were trying to scream at people to get out. We were yelling at everyone.”

Katelyn Whitcher, 27, who lives in the neighborhood, said she saw the flames as they shot through the roof.

“I saw the windows break and flames gushing out of the top floor. It was pretty big, like something out of one of those ... movies,” she said.