NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 9, 2014

'We're going to have to restart our lives'

Fire victims salvage what they can

HAVERHILL — The lives of dozens of people, from a 7-month-old boy to an 82-year-old man, are in disarray after the fire that ripped through their Forest Acres apartment building.

And still, they don’t know what caused the blaze.

Yesterday, fire investigators combed the scene of Wednesday’s fire at 21-23 Forest Acres Drive, part of the large Forest Acres apartment complex in the city’s Bradford section.

David Van Dam, Mayor James Fiorentini’s chief of staff, said public safety officials would not make any comment about the cause of the fire until their investigation is complete, which could be as early as today. Van Dam said officials would also not comment on whether the building’s smoke alarms were working at the time of the fire.

Several residents of the building said they did not hear any alarms go off, and that they were alerted to the fire when they heard yelling and their neighbors came knocking on apartment doors.

City Building Inspector Richard Osborne said the right side of the building was so heavily damaged that it will have to be demolished. He said that after the investigation into the fire is completed, he expects the mayor will sign an emergency demolition order.

Osborne said the left side of the building, which received mostly smoke damage, is still being evaluated and that utilities must be inspected along with damaged sections of the roof.

“They’ll also have to address hazardous waste,” Osborne said of the Forest Acres management.

Red Cross volunteers helped residents from 18 units. They said 20 units were affected by the fire, but two of those units were vacant. A total of 46 people were forced from their apartments by the fire, said Deb Duxbury, program disaster manager for the Red Cross.

Those people included 82-year-old Donald Sauvan, who has lived in the same second-floor apartment for 60 years. His apartment is on the left side of the building, which was mostly untouched by flames but did receive smoke and water damage.

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