NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — When Alexis Roberts and Jordan Peters first heard the fire alarms going off from their room inside Royal Crown Lodging Tuesday afternoon, the couple didn’t think anything of it.
“It goes off from time to time,” Roberts explained. “You can barely hear it.”
“I would’ve ignored it if she wasn’t there,” Peters added.
But Roberts knew something was wrong when she went to investigate and saw smoke coming from a room down the hall.
“It was smoking like crazy,” Roberts recalled. “You could tell there was a fire in that room.”
Roberts said she and other tenants tried knocking on the door, but no one responded. That’s when she ran back to her room to grab Peters.
Peters said he rushed down the hall and immediately began trying to break down the door.
“After two or three kicks, the deadbolt came off and [the tenant] came out,” he recalled. “He was all burnt.”
Roberts said everyone who was standing outside the man’s room became overwhelmed by the smoke that was quickly filling the hallway.
“When the door opened, it was done,” Roberts said. “The flames just ate the whole room and it came right at us.”
“It all happened so fast,” Peters added. “There was so much smoke and fire was coming down the hallway.”
Roberts and Peters began alerting their neighbors to the danger and were able to help two third-floor residents escape before the smoke and heat became unbearable.
“Once we got past the two bedrooms closest to [the room where the fire started], the flames were maybe a foot behind me,” Roberts said. “It was very intense.”
The couple spent the next several hours watching in horror as the Acushnet Avenue building they once called home went up in flames.
“I tried to go back into the hallway to help get more people out, but there was so much smoke I couldn’t see anything,” Peters recalled. “Seconds after we made it outside, the stairs were on fire.”
Firefighters rushed to rescue trapped tenants as conditions inside the building rapidly deteriorated. New Bedford Fire Chief Scott Kruger said two tenants died and five others were injured in the fire, which gutted the rooming house and displaced more than two dozen residents.
“I couldn’t imagine being stuck in that,” Peters said, adding that “all he could do” was watch as firefighters pulled tenants from their windows.
Roberts and Peters are currently being assisted by the American Red Cross, though their emergency shelter runs out Friday morning.
“We lost everything,” Roberts said. “We’re just waiting to find out what the next step is … you can only do so much.”
While they’re thankful to be alive, the couple is concerned for what’s next.
“I don’t even have clothes to go to work right now,” Peters said. “Eventually we will figure it out, but we’re not sure how long it is going to take.”