Mar. 2—SALEM — An early-morning fire in a home on Broadway could have been worse were it not for a person who ran to the nearest fire station to report the blaze.
Firefighters were called to a 2 1/2 story wood-frame home at 99 Broadway at midnight on Tuesday. Three people live in the home, but it remains unclear how many units are in the building or how the fire started, according to Salem fire Capt. Tony Marfongelli. Though the building isn't a loss and could be rebuilt, damage was extensive.
The fire took place just around the corner from the Engine 5 fire station at 64 Loring Ave. A witness ran to the station and began knocking on the doors, according to Marfongelli. The fire remains under investigation.
Three other factors made battling the blaze more difficult. High winds and plummeting temperatures put the wind chill below zero as the fire was starting. On top of that, Marfongelli said, Salem crews were already helping at a fire in Lynn that was roaring in a triple-decker. Firefighters from Beverly, Lynnfield and Middleton helped provide backup in Salem.
The house was framed with "balloon construction," Marfongelli said, meaning the outer walls of the building continue from floor to ceiling over multiple stories, often without fire stops or blocking that could help contain a fire. Homes built today have outer walls framed individually with each story as it's built.
"With balloon construction, you have a frame and build around and up the frame. You could have a fire on the first floor, and it goes up the walls," Marfongelli said. "With the heavy winds, once the fire got into the walls it became a real challenge."
It took about an hour to knock the fire down, he said. But without the early warning delivered on foot, the situation could've been worse.
"That person ran down to the station, knocked on the door and the crews responded immediately," Marfongelli said. "Any time we can get there quickly... we save property, we save lives by getting inside as fast as possible."