Nine-alarm fire destroys three tripledeckers in Cambridge; no residents hurt

Cambridge 9 alarm fire July 2014

As many as 30 people may have been made homeless by an early morning fire on Allston Street that was so intense, for a time people arriving on scene could not even see the sidewalk due to the thick smoke.

Shortly after 8 a.m., firefighters were still dealing with flareups in two of the three buildings.

Another photo of the fire.

There's a GoFundMe site for two of the residents:

Chris Scovil and Steph Heiser lost freakin' everything to a 9-alarm fire last night. Thankfully, they were out of the house when it happened. But, they have no renter's insurance and nothing left. They need help even just getting through the next few days, and that's what we're here for. I know they have a ton of awesome friends who will be glad to give to help them get back on their feet as soon as they can.



Free tagging: 


Cambridge Fire Department

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I live in Central, a few blocks from the Lafayette Square house. Wanted to take a minute to say thanks to Cambridge Fire Department. I've seen them in action (and in inaction, waiting) for upwards of forty years. They are the absolute best, bar none.

Thanks, Cambridge Fire Department. We owe you big time, all the time.

Two of my firefighter friends responded

Our team for a charity ride had a big potluck and training ride today - needless to say, one of our number was not able to make it. Everyone has to pitch in for these situations.

A neighbor of ours is still on duty - several hours past the end of his scheduled shift.

Amazing guys, both of them! Tough job last night, but they got it done and limited it to three houses.

Moral of the story:

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Get renter's insurance! It's very cheap and an absolute lifesaver if something like this (or just something more mundane like a plumbing leak or burglary) happens to your apartment.

Moral #2

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Don't build multiple units so close to each other. Contrary to what's said here, density is not good.


Nothing is "perfect", be it sprawl or density. The pros of density far outweigh your sprawl.

Density isn't the problem

Flammability is.

Chicago learned its lesson and all of its "two flats" and "three flats" are brick.

The Boston area got away with huge residential expansions of flammable buildings because of the rise of professional firefighting and mechanized equipment. Otherwise, these buildings might be brick, too.

Many European cities have masonry structures at much higher densities without being high rises, and they don't have fires spread much, either..

Moral #3

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See the fire department web site for what fire hazards are banned, and make sure that the ones you see are taken care of.

In my building or adjacent ones, I see people barbecuing on triple-decker porches and balconies, people using apartment building fire escapes for gardening, old smokers with apparent dementia, flammable materials stored in dangerous spots.

I've also seen condo open houses recently in which the rear exit stairs landings are blocked by use for storage, sometimes with shelving units there.

If there were any abandoned properties nearby, I guess now I would ask the fire department about those. Seems to be increased risk of fire from squatters, and possibly from arson by property owner.

People are idiots about fire issues.

Access corridors are particularly mysterious. They don't do the zen of seeing the value of empty

And in our witlessly self absorbed culture that breeds ditzes like bacteria, few ever try and imagine how it would suck for some fireman in a full rig with a heavy hose to have to wade through that shit.

I have to periodically remind tenants that the small furnace rooms are not storage.

We are territorial monkeys often afflicted with poor self control when it comes to stuff.

Yes, yes, yes! You never

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Yes, yes, yes! You never think a fire is going to happen where you live, but as someone who has gone through a major fire, I strongly urge people to get the max insurance you can afford. While I haven't heard the cause of this fire, think of the selfish IDIOT who tossed his cigarette into bark mulch on a roof deck the other night in the Back Bay and started a fire in that building. We all live next to fools, so we all must take precautions where we can.

Friends across the street

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My good friends live directly across the street from all of this and came very close to losing their home as well - thankfully didn't. One of them showed me a photo of the amount of water that was coming out of one the buildings through the front door - it was as if a waterfall was happening, the amount of water in the photo was crazy. The donation thing for the guys from this have gotten a fair bit of money, not that it can replace the sentimental value of the objects they had, but luckily everyone seems to be safe.