NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — An investigation is underway into the cause of a fire that gutted a New Bedford rooming house Tuesday afternoon.

New Bedford Fire Chief Scott Kruger tells 12 News one man died and at least five others were injured in the fire, which tore through Royal Crown Lodging on Acushnet Avenue.

One person is still unaccounted for, according to Kruger.

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Thick, black smoke shrouded the neighborhood as flames quickly engulfed the building. Kruger said firefighters rescued at least three residents, while several others leapt from their windows.

“There were people hanging out of windows,” Kruger said.

Firefighters initially started searching inside the building for tenants, but were forced out as conditions rapidly deteriorated, according to the fire chief.

“The fire already had control of the building by the time we arrived,” Kruger explained. “It became dangerous very quickly.”

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It took firefighters several hours to knock down the flames.

The building is a total loss. Kruger said firefighters are demolishing the building piece by piece.

More than two dozen tenants lived in the rooming house, according to Kruger. The American Red Cross and Seven Hills Behavioral Health are assisting the displaced tenants.

“Their lives have been turned upside-down,” New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said of the tenants. “We will do everything we can to make sure they are well cared for.”

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

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