Reported Explosion, Fire Displace Residents in South End [VIDEO]
NEW BEDFORD — A reported explosion and an afternoon fire have left a number of people displaced from their homes in New Bedford's South End.
The fire was reported Tuesday afternoon sometime after 1 p.m at 901 Brock Avenue. New Bedford Fire Chief Michael Gomes said when firefighters arrived on scene, there was heavy fire showing on the right side of the three-story wooden structure, on the third floor.
"Crews made an aggressive tract to the inside, in order to cover the exposure that we had to the north," Chief Gomes said. "The fire is under control, but we still have some hot spots up in the attic that crews are chasing after."
Chief Gomes said there were reports of a potential explosion that could have possibly been the cause of the fire, but that there was no official determination at this time. He estimated the damage at about $125,000, and deemed the home uninhabitable because gas and electric service had been cut from the buildings. He said he was unsure how many people would be displaced.
"It's not suspicious at this time, but there is still a whole lot of investigation to be done," he said.
Dylan Ponte, 23, lives in one of the third floor apartments and said he was home at the time of the fire.
"I just heard a boom," he said. "It sounded like someone shot a firework or something. It was a boom."
Ponte said he opened the window, and smoke hit him in the face. He said he also heard a neighbor in the hallway telling him to get out of the house.
"I just ran and grabbed my dog. She was in the back of the house, it was just all black smoke in the back of the house. I don't know if there were flames or not. I just slammed the door and ran out the front," he said.
A firefighter that just happened to be driving by rescued Ponte's disabled aunt from the second floor. Ponte went back into the building and said he banged on the door of the apartment where it appeared the fire was coming from, but got no response. He said he tried to kick in the door, but it wouldn't budge. Eventually, he could no longer breathe and had to leave the building as the smoke became too much.
A number of residents had pets in their apartments. Chief Gomes said there were quite a few dogs, cats and even a rabbit that were rescued from the building. At least one dog did not survive the fire.
"We had to perform CPR on a number of (the pets), and I don't know the final outcome," he said. "We're still actively looking for those pets inside."
"I'm really devastated one of the dogs didn't make it," Ponte said. "I tried to kick the door as hard as I could."