By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE — Left with just the clothes on their backs, the 11 people living at 9 Lafayette Ave. are trying to replace everything lost when a three-alarm blaze ripped through their home late Friday night.
“We weren’t able to get anything out,” said Rose Matias, 18, a 2012 Lawrence High graduate, who lived in the two-family home with her mother, sisters, grandmother and other relatives.
The fire is believed to have started in an artificial Christmas tree, quickly incinerating furniture, clothing, pictures, personal belongings and recently purchased and wrapped holiday gifts.
Everyone made it out of the house physically unharmed, including Matias’ grandmother, Elsa Susana, 56, and aunt, Minilda Jimenez, 49, who jumped from the second-floor to safety. Numerous teen-agers and three young children, including a 1-year-old boy, also escaped.
Donations are being sought for the fire-torn family, who spent yesterday searching the city for a four-bedroom apartment and replacing legal documents the fire destroyed, said Rose Matias, a freshman at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, N.H.
The family spent the weekend at a Haverhill hotel but now must find permanent housing, Matias said.
Groveland residents Joseph and Yolanda D’Amore are collecting non-perishable foods, school supplies, toys and electronic games at his 9 Cherry Tree Lane home. Wayne Hayes, who lives in the Mount Vernon neighborhood in Lawrence, is also collecting gift cards and furniture.
D’Amore and friends last month collected donations for victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York. Through that charitable drive, the group literally “stocked an entire school system with school supplies,” Joseph D’Amore said.
“People really like these types of efforts because they impact them directly. The items go from their homes to the homes of those effected,” he said.
Hayes said he can store furniture and other items for the family in his single-car garage at 84 Genesee St. He’s also hoping to collect gift cards to grocery and department stores for the family. Those interested in donating items to Hayes are asked to email him at HealLawrence@aol.com or call him (978) 258-7575.
Lawrence firefighter Juan Gonzalez is also helping the family and collecting donations. He can be reached directly at (978) 902-2336, he said.
The fire broke out just before 11 p.m. Friday and continued to burn into Saturday morning. While the fire is believed to have started in the tree, Fire Chief Jack Bergeron said it will be impossible to determine exactly how it was sparked due to the extent of the damage and any potential evidence being destroyed. Arson is not suspected.
Overall, the blaze caused $375,000 in property damage. A neighboring home at 13-15 Lafayette was also scorched, leaving 6 more people temporarily homeless, firefighters said.
Built in 1924, 9 Lafayette Ave. is has 2,080-square-feet of living space. Owner Carlos Martinez purchased the two-family in 2007. Its current value was $162,300, according to city assessing records.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTrib Jill.