NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Two people were found dead Monday morning following a fast-moving fire at two New Bedford apartment buildings.
According to acting Fire Chief Scott Kruger, the flames broke out at a building on Acushnet Avenue around 12:30 a.m. before quickly spreading to a neighboring building.
Forty people are now without a home and the American Red Cross has been called in to assist them with basic needs, Kruger said.
Officials are withholding the identity of the two victims pending family notification.
By the time crews arrived, Kruger said the fire had a pretty good head start and was stubborn to put out.
“It was a very stubborn fire,” he said.
He said it seems to have started in a place that was central to both buildings.
“Basically the fire mirrored each other in both buildings,” he said. “What was happening in one was happening in the other as far as it had already taken control of the attic space.”
It was challenging, according to Kruger, since they needed more manpower. One building also collapsed making it harder to get firefighters inside to put out the remaining flames.
One firefighter was also taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
12 News spoke with Lionel Goncalves who says he has owned one of the buildings for about 20 years. He says he just put in a sprinkler system and new fire alarms about four years ago.
According to Goncalves, there is a bakery on the bottom floor below the apartments.
The fire took place in the same neighborhood where the city is planning on decommissioning one of the nearby station’s engines.
That engine was one of the many that were used to knock out the fire, but Mayor Jon Mitchell said it still be taken offline.
“While there is no basis to believe that the response to this particular fire would have been materially different without Engine 8’s participation, no change to Engine 8’s status is planned for this fiscal year,” Mitchell said.
Despite this, Mitchell said the city is still looking into other possibilities that do not involve decommissioning the engine.
“Our goal is to keep the fire department financially sustainable so that it can deliver the fire suppression and prevention services our residents need,” he said. “While a reduction in operating expenses will be necessary to achieve this goal, my preference is to do so without taking Engine 8 offline, even beyond this fiscal year.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.