Chief Gene Doherty said the investigation is still ongoing, and they’re trying to determine if it was arson.
“The fire started with the ignition of a disposed mattress in the rear of 16 Dana Street that was leaning up against the home,” he said. “We don’t know if it was set accidentally or intentionally. We have a couple more interviews to conduct. The investigation is ongoing.”
While no human beings were hurt, the fire affected 16 Dana St. and 1580 North Shore Rd, with 16 Dana St. being a complete loss. Another two homes were threatened – which would have meant the entire corner going up in flames – but they were preserved by fire crew efforts.
“I told a couple of people there was a real possibility of two more houses going up,” said the chief. “They were in real danger…The guys did a great job. We’re fortunate it was a daytime fire. It would have been different at night, much different outcomes.”
All in all, Doherty said there was $500,000 in property loss.
Revere Dep. Chief Bob Eydenberg was in charge of the scene and seven other departments assisted, including Chelsea, Malden, Everett, Winthrop, Lynn, Saugus and MassPort. Boston, Cambridge, Melrose and Everett helped cover Revere stations.
There were approximately 50 firefighters working the blaze.
Doherty said one reason the fire went up so quickly and gave off so much smoke was that the properties were covered with asphalt siding.
“When the mattress caught and hit that siding, it just accelerated so quickly,” he said. “We call that gas siding. It’s like having gasoline on the side of a house when it’s exposed to fire.”
The fire came in at 2:07 p.m. and the huge plume of black smoke could almost immediately be seen from as far away as Everett and Chelsea.
It led many to postulate that there had been a plane crash or some other major disaster on Revere Beach.
That’s how bad it looked from a distance
At the scene, it was quite apparent that it was a major house fire.
The two homes were almost instantly ablaze with red-hot flames dancing out the back windows and through the roof.
Hundreds of people snapped photos and looked on in horror.
It was absolute chaos.
Pieces of wood, burnt paper, unidentifiable charred substances and water rained down on the crowd.
The street was closed off from Dehon Street to far down North Shore Rd. and many nearby homes were also evacuated.
Residents of the affected homes scrambled to get out, aided by Revere Police, firefighters, Transit Police and one worker from a local board-up company (see accompanying story).
From the crowd, residents looked on in disbelief as they watched fire take away all their possessions and their homes.
John and Shannon Bottari lived on the third floor of 1580 North Shore Rd, and were at home at the time.
“My wife was in the parlor and I was out on the porch and all the sudden I heard someone yelling from below,” said John Bottari. “This guy was waving at me and saying, ‘Get out of there. Come down quickly.’ I suddenly realized what was happening and got out quick.”
Said Shannon Bottari, “When John opened the apartment door, it was all smoke everywhere.”
Both did make it out to safety, but lost a couple of their pets.
The Bottari’s were also the subjects of a heartfelt reunion with one of their cats, Sammie – whom firefighters pulled from the blaze.
“It’s Sammie,” yelled Shannon Bottari as she was being interviewed and a firefighter brought the cat out with one hand.
“He’s fine. He’s alive,” she said.
Fire crews were set up on each floor of both homes, punching holes in the structures to air out the blaze.
Meanwhile, in the backyard, crews doused the backs of both houses with water for hours. Despite getting the fire under control, putting it out was no easy task.
The scene was finally cleared at 5:30 p.m.
Of the 29 people that were left homeless, the Red Cross and Mayor Tom Ambrosino’s office put them up for the night in a Peabody hotel.
The Fire Department and Red Cross opened the Point of Pines Fire Station on Saturday night with the department’s new emergency shelter kit, but none of the victims showed up.
It was closed down by midnight.
“If nothing else, setting up the shelter was a good drill for us,” said Doherty.
On a separate matter, Doherty said that he has reported Code Violations from 16 Dana St. to the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD).
“It’s my opinion the second and third floors at 16 Dana were being operated as a rooming house,” he said. “There were locks on all the doors. Firefighters had to break through all the doors to each room.”
The owner occupied three-decker had 17 people living in three apartments, with 10 males living on the third floor.
ISD officials are looking into that matter this week.