LYNN — Michelle Dupont spent Monday night at a Revere hotel and she’s planning to be there until she can find a place to live.
The unemployed nurse’s aid is among more than two dozen people who are homeless after a devastating fire in a Broad Street apartment building.
“You never think such a thing will happen to you, and when it does, it just blows your mind,” she said.
Dupont and a handful of displaced tenants returned to the property hoping to retrieve what’s left of their belongings. While only the frame of the three-story wood frame building survived, firefighters gathered items that survived the blaze.
“This is hugely important as you can imagine,” said District Fire Chief Stephen Archer. “These people have lost everything they own.”
Firefighters saved a few things from the first and second floor units including clothes, cash, prescription drugs, and jewelry. But the third floor collapsed.
The fire likely started in a third floor kitchen, the result of unattended cooking, and quickly spread, Archer said.
Frank Ludwig, a union roofer, had been home for 15 minutes in his third floor apartment when he heard a smoke detector.
“I opened my door, black smoke filled the hallway and I saw smoke coming out the top of my neighbor’s door,” he said. “My neighbor and I beat on her door and told the lady to get out. She came out covered in soot, I grabbed her and pulled her into the hallway and shut her door.”
But as Ludwig ran to his apartment to save his cat, Ugly, the woman apparently returned to her unit.
Firefighters Derek Spitaleri and Robert Lehman made their way to her apartment and did a search on their hands and knees amid intense heat and smoke.
“We searched the bedroom, heard someone moaning and found her,” said Lehman. “Derek and I took steps to extricate the victim out of the building.”
They rejected any suggestion of heroism.
“This is what we do, based on our training,” said Spitaleri. “It’s nothing different than any other firefighter across the country. It happens every day when we encounter situations like this. We knew what we had to do. There was no discussion, she was there and we had to get her out.”
The 55-year-old victim was expected to be released from Massachusetts General Hospital late Tuesday.
Dupont said it all happened so fast.
“I was eating supper and heard a man banging on a third floor door screaming ‘fire,’ I opened my door and the guy who was yelling told me to get out of the building,” she said. “I tried to get my two cats, but the smoke was too heavy. The firefighters saved them. I’m alive and I got a bag of belongings and I’m grateful to the Red Cross who paid for a hotel.”
Clarance Jones, a 79-year-old retiree, who lived on the first floor, was at his doctor’s office when the fire broke out.
“My son, who lives up the street, called me to say my building was on fire and I might not have a place to live,” he said. “He was right.”
Michele Desmarais, director of the city’s Public Health Division, praised the combined efforts of her department, the Emergency Management team, the Fire Department, and the Red Cross.
“Everyone worked together to ensure that these Lynn residents were taken care of in a caring and compassionate manner,” she said.