Neighborhood rallies to help in aftermath of five-alarm fire

A Boston Fire ladder truck continued to pour water on the roof of 7 Allston St. on Sunday as a frozen cascade enveloped the front and sides of the three-decker. A five-alarm blaze destroyed the house and damaged an adjacent property on Saturday night. Eliza Dewey photo

A five-alarm fire that ripped through a Dorchester three-decker late Saturday night has robbed 14 people of their home and caused considerable damage to the neighboring house as well. The Boston Fire Department said early Sunday morning that one firefighter was treated at the scene and transported to the hospital for evaluation, but no other injuries were reported.

Shamila Buchan, who lived on the first floor of 7 Allston St, said all 14 residents who escaped the blaze are part of one large family. “We haven’t even thought about [the cost] yet. It happened so fast, we just grabbed everybody and ran for it. There was no looking back.”

The Boston Fire Department has given an initial estimated loss of $1.5 million between her house and the neighboring home. Mayor Martin Walsh was on the scene Saturday night to meet with firefighters and victims.

Buchan said she is currently staying with her sister in Dorchester. The family has been contacted by the Red Cross with information about additional places to stay.

But long term?

“We will have to find a new place to live,” she said. The Fire Department called the house at 7 Allston a “complete and total loss” in a tweet.

The extent of the damage was clearly visible Sunday afternoon. The house that many locals might remember for its cheerful annual display of Christmas lights had been reduced to a charred skeleton covered in dramatic icicles.

As firefighters battled the blaze, flames were visible rising into the sky even from the top of the building’s third floor. The smoke billowed out into the sky and could be seen for blocks away. Buchan said the family did not know yet the cause of the fire. Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn has said the cause is still under investigation.

The neighboring house also suffered considerable damage. On Sunday afternoon, residents from that building’s first floor returned to retrieve a few key items, picking through the frigid and water-damaged mess that was now covered in a thick layer of ice.

Ngoc Pham, whose elderly parents live there with his niece, said they were staying with him nearby – although it was a tight squeeze to combine the families. They, too, had been in touch with the Red Cross.

Pham said the basement was flooded and the living situation was simply untenable.

“Everything’s gone,” he said. The temperature inside the home Sunday afternoon seemed indistinguishable from outside, which hoovered around twelve degrees in the sunshine.

Pham said his relatives had watched the fire spread rapidly.

“They heard an explosion and looked out their window and saw flames on the first floor,” he says. “By the time they got out to the porch, it had spread to the second floor.”

The nearby Epiphany School has started an online campaign to raise funds for the Buchan family from 7 Allston St. As of Monday morning, it had raised roughly $14,500 of its $20,000 goal.

The local impact of the firefight, which brought in an estimated 100 firefighters, could still be felt Sunday even a few blocks away. A stationed fire truck kept its ladder hoisted in the sky with a hose continuing to run water into the house.

A firefighter on the scene who had come from Revere told the Reporter that it was too cold to bring the ladder down – and that the continued running water was due to caution about any remaining flames. The water ran down Center Street and over onto Wainwright Street, causing flooding that turned into thick layers of ice. Some local residents complained about a drain on Lithgow Street that they said had not properly drained for months and was therefore now inefficient in assisting with the overflow of water.

As a good reminder for the future, the Boston Fire Department also tweeted out about the importance of keeping fire hydrants clear.

“Thanks to this Dorchester neighborhood for having hydrants at the ready. We used many and were able to hookup quickly,” the Department tweeted.