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Fire destroys historic home of Taunton’s first mayor

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TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — A Taunton neighborhood is left reeling after a fire destroyed a historic, six-apartment home Tuesday night, displacing the 11 people who lived inside.

The home – located on Harrison Street – was built back in 1855 and was previously home to the city’s first mayor, Edmund Hatch Bennett, according to a spokesperson from the Old Colony History Museum.

Richard Gelinas, who lived in the building, said he lost his cat in the fire. He tells Eyewitness News he and his girlfriend had to jump out one of the windows to escape.

“I didn’t even grab shoes. I didn’t even grab nothing. I just grabbed [my girlfriend],” Gelinas recalled. “I wasn’t even thinking about my cat. Now I’m just beating myself up. I feel so guilty.”

Brittani Albanese was at a nearby grocery store with her mother when she noticed the smoke from a distance.

After calling 911, Albanese noticed a couple of residents screaming from inside the burning home.

“I heard people screaming from the first floor, a couple, and they couldn’t get out of the window,” she recalled. “I broke the screen and I pulled them out of the window.”

Taunton Fire Chief Timothy Bradshaw said one firefighter was treated for a “heat-related condition” and is expected to be okay. Firefighters also rescued one man by ladder from a second-floor balcony.

Bradshaw said all 11 residents made it out of the building safely.

“Anytime we have a fire and everybody walks away from it and all the tenants are accounted for, it’s a positive thing,” Bradshaw said.

Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye commended the Taunton Fire Department, saying they did a “tremendous job” fighting the massive fire.

“This breaks your heart. A historic house… but thank God at this point, there are no reported injuries,” Hoye said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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