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Fiery blaze destroys building; 8 left homeless on Cohasset St.

Byline: Richard Nangle

WORCESTER - A fireball-belching three-alarm blaze that frightened onlookers and posed challenges to firefighters gutted a three-decker at 4 Cohasset St. yesterday and left eight people homeless.

It also produced a scary moment when a firefighter quickly escaped a third-floor window moments after the fire violently reignited.

An occupant on the first floor escaped safely before firefighters arrived. Two of his roommates arrived shortly after, having been called at their workplaces. They watched in horror from the sidewalk with the realization they would not be able to retrieve anything from inside.

"I don't know if all my belongings are intact, but I doubt it," said first-floor resident Brian Hallenbrook, 33. "They wouldn't let us go in."

As he watched the fire die down and flare up several times, Mr. Hallenbrook said he was just thankful not to have been home and trapped inside when the fire began.

A woman and two

children who lived on the second floor were not home when the fire broke out shortly after 5:30 p.m.

The third floor, which caused firefighters the most trouble, was unoccupied.

District Fire Chief Frank D. DeLiddo III said the cause of the fire was unclear and the house was almost

destroyed.

He refused to rule out the possibility of foul play, but said investigators would have to sift through the remains today before making a determination.

It was a fast-moving blaze that was visible in the basement, entered the first- and second-floor walls, and was visible on the third floor by the time firefighters arrived. It was called in to fire headquarters about 5:45 p.m.

"We needed every member we had on scene," Chief DeLiddo said. By the third alarm, 48 firefighters responded to the fire, which took 2-1/2 hours to extinguish.

"It was a very rapid, very intense fire," Chief DeLiddo said.

The fire appeared to be under control on at least two occasions, only to spew forth more thick black smoke and fireballs minutes later.

Firefighters had a difficult time maneuvering their trucks and equipment on that section of Cohasset Street, which sits on a steep incline off Plantation Street.

The icy street and sidewalks made the effort all the more treacherous, and several firefighters and police officers lost their footing at times.

On one occasion, a huge fireball shot out an attic window and thick plumes of smoke escaped windows on the third floor. A firefighter who was on that floor scrambled out a window head first and crawled down a ladder from a ladder truck. At one point, the firefighter was not visible through the smoke, evoking shrieks from the several dozen neighbors and passers-by who were watching. Many gasped as an explosive fireball burst through the front attic window and through the roof while flames reappeared through

third-floor windows to the rear.

Fire officials, alarmed by the quick re-ignition, announced at 6:30 p.m. a roll call to determine whether anyone was still inside the building. At that point, the Fire Department sounded a third alarm.

A firefighter was hospitalized with an ankle injury after falling on ice, the only injury reported at the scene. The American Red Cross of Central Massachusetts provided shelter, food and clothing for the six adults and two children who were displaced.

Chief DeLiddo said the owner of the building had come by, but he did not speak to the person and did not have a name. In 2003, 4 Cohasset St. was sold by Joao A. Botelho to Abnael and Mirian Santana for $280,000.

ART: PHOTOS; MAP

CUTLINE: (PHOTOS) Ladder 5 firefighters were venting windows when a fireball erupted and sent them scrambling to safety. (MAP) Fire

PHOTOG: (PHOTOS) ROGER CONANT PHOTOS (MAP) T&G Staff/STACEY ARSENAULT
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 11, 2007
Words:629
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