The blaze burned through the roof and crews broke it down further by dumping massive amounts of water on the top of the structure through a "surround and drown" defensive strategy.
The four-story apartment building with about 35 units appears to be a total loss, and the cause of the fire was not immediately known. Firefighters had taken up a perimeter around the still-burning structure as of Sunday evening.
"Right now, we're in defensive operations," said Revere Deputy Fire Chief Glen Rich at the scene Sunday night. "The fire is in very difficult places to get to, to fully extinguish, so we're dumping a lot of water on top just trying to get the fire out. At this point, we’re going to continue until necessary and maybe we can get back in there with hand lines. We have departments from all over — we went to five alarms — helping out. They fought this fire valiantly, but it’s just an ordeal. The fire was too advanced upon arrival."
Three of the firefighters suffered from heat-related injuries and were taken to local hospitals. There were no immediate reports of injured residents at the scene with everyone from the building accounted for.
Rich said it was unclear where the fire started, but an initial call from the alarm company indicated the alarm was going off on the fourth floor. Due to the roofing style, flat and rubber, he said the blaze could have started somewhere in the roof.
"If it was in the roof, or even came up through the walls into the roof, it would go undiscovered for quite awhile and it would get the head start it got, so there was definitely a lot of fire in the roof area on our arrival," Rich said.
The state fire marshal's office has sent a State Police fire investigator to assist local officials with the origin and cause investigation, according to their spokeswoman Jennifer Mieth.
James Luiso, a resident of the building who lives with his girlfriend, said they were in Maine and on their way home when the fire broke out. They were about two hours away when the couple got a call from a neighbor who relayed that the building was on fire.
"So we come home and we have nothing left," Luiso said. "We have nothing left. I don't know what to say."
Luiso said, in addition to all their belongings, they lost three cats in the fire.
He said they heard the cause was a fourth floor kitchen fire, but Rich said the cause is still unclear.
Luiso and Mehron Puorishaag, a 14-year resident of the building, both reported there had been issues with the fire system in the building, saying that the fire alarm goes off all the time.
Puorishaag said the fire alarm went off shortly after 2 p.m., which he explained usually happens when someone is using a toaster or their oven. Typically, he said someone comes out from the fire department and shuts it off, but Sunday was not a typical day.
"So, today, I was preparing to leave for work and just the moment I was leaving, I heard a lot of commotion in the hallway saying there's a fire," Puorishaag said. "Realizing this is not a drill and this is not our usual alarm, I just grabbed the things I had in my hands, slammed my slider door to avoid getting air in the apartment, locked my unit and just joined the other people evacuating the building."
Puorishaag said he thinks there was something electrical causing the smoke between the roof and ceiling of two fourth floor units, and took issue with the fire department's surround and drown strategy rather than starting from that possible origin.
"It's a big loss for everybody," he said. "Everything (of mine) is in there … I feel a bit helpless."