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Mattapan fire leaves 25 homeless, causes $400K in damage

Posted by Metro Desk  May 6, 2011 12:16 PM

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Boston Fire Department

The fire leaped from one building to the other, fire officials said.

An early-morning fire at two triple-deckers in Mattapan displaced 25 people and caused an estimated $400,000 in damage, Boston fire officials said.

No one was injured in the fire, which was reported shortly before 6 a.m. on the third floor of 15 Woolson St. and jumped across to 19 Woolson, said Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald.

Investigators determined an electrical short circuit in a third-floor bedroom at 15 Woolson St. sparked the blaze, he said.

The Red Cross and mayor's office are assisting the people who were able to flee the buildings after they were awakened by smoke alarms.

“Someone was banging on my door before six,” Tiarah Thomas, 24, said, still wearing her pajamas and standing on the steps of her neighbors’ home across the street.

Thomas was just starting to wake when she heard commotion in the hallway. At first, she didn’t think much of it “because it’s always noisy.” But, then came the banging, and her teenage neighbor screamed, “Fire!”

“I just grabbed my daughter and came out,” the first-floor resident of 15 Woolson said of her 5-year-old. Thomas, a senior at Boston College, also managed to grab one more sacred thing — her laptop computer.

“It’s the last week of classes, and I have something that’s due,” said Thomas, who is set to graduate in two weeks with a degree in human development.

Booz Alexis was getting ready to take his shower and head off to work when he heard the fire alarm blaring. He immediately ran out of his first-floor apartment and started banging on his neighbors' doors.

Then, Alexis said, he ran up to the second floor to make sure those neighbors and family members were awake as well.

“The smoke was everywhere,” he said.

Jean-Philippe Dossous, 25, stood on the street and pointed up to the charred remains of his windowless third-floor apartment that he shares with his father, cousin, and two friends.

He was in a deep sleep and said he owes his life to a cousin who knocked on his bedroom door and screamed fire.

Dossous is studying to become a nurse at MassBay Community College and fell asleep preparing for an upcoming test. He ran out of the apartment with nothing but his textbook and the clothes on his back, boxers and a tank top.

“I saw all this smoke and redness, and I just kept on running,” he said, dressed in jeans, a black jacket and sneakers given to him by neighbors. Upstairs were his cellphone, wallet, and driver's license. “It’s crazy. I just lost everything. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Neighbors and family members of the tight-knit section of Woolson Street stepped in to help, passing out water, juice and clothes to those displaced by the fire. Neighbors also called relatives for victims of the fire who fled without their cellphones.

Lee Cine, who lives in Quincy, rushed to scene to check on his cousin Dossous. Cine’s sister, a social worker in Cambridge, called him after someone called her. And as he stood there reassuring his cousin that the man would not be homeless because he had family, Cine snapped a picture of the butter cream building where his family used to live.
The back section of the third floor was charred and pieces of the siding were misshapen from the heat. The smell of smoke still lingered in the air.

“The main thing is that everybody is safe,” Cine said. “That’s the main thing.”

Seventy-five Boston firefighters battled the blaze.

Fire came out of the side window of 15 Woolson St., then ignited the top floor of 19 Woolson, MacDonald said. Both buildings had to have holes punched in their roofs so firefighters could get to the flames; the building at 15 Woolson was more heavily damaged, he said.

Woolson Street was the site of the slaying of four people, including a 2-year-old child, in September 2010, a crime that shocked the city. A fifth person was shot and paralyzed. Three men face charges in connection with the shootings, which prosecutors said were committed during the course of a robbery.

Originally published on the blog MetroDesk.

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