Police Chief Alan DeNaro, the city's public safety commissioner, said an unidentified elderly woman who was killed was on oxygen, but that it was unclear what role the tank played in sparking the quick-moving fire.
A man and a woman who lived in the same unit were rushed to the hospital, the former with burns to Massachusetts General Hospital, but their injuries weren't considered life-threatening, DeNaro said. A family of four and another woman living in the two other apartments escaped without injury, authorities said.
Greg Roberts, president of the Haverhill firefighters union, said firefighters were "robbed of ever knowing" if they could have averted the tragic fire after Mayor James J. Fiorentini last month ordered the department to slash staffing from three men to one on its rescue truck, which is responsible for search-and-rescue and saving injured jakes. He called it the firefighters' "lifeline."
"I think the mayor definitely has some responsibility," he said. "Ten days after he closes the rescue, this is where we end up. It's tragic. My heart goes out to the family."
But DeNaro said other engines arrived "simultaneously" as the one-man truck, giving responders "ample man power" to save potential victims -- if they could.
"That was a fully engulfed building," he said. "There's nothing in the bag of tricks we have that would have allowed us to safely send those firefighters into that building."
The probe into the fire's cause remains ongoing, according to the state fire marshal's office.
Marcia Stanley, who lives next-door to the now gutted triple-decker, said she was awoken by "horrible screaming" followed by a cannon-like explosion that engulfed the bottom floor of the nearby triple-decker with such intense heat, she could feel it in her bedroom 30 feet away.
"The whole side of the house was in flames," she said. "I was so scared. I thought our house was on fire because of that heat."
Stanley said the explosion sounded like "a bomb went off, or like a cannon," and as she and her two daughters fled their home, an electrical box on the side of the home also blew.
Written by Boston Herald
Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix