There was a commotion at the back door of 77 Essex St. on Sunday night as fire crews battled a chaotic two-alarm fire on fire-prone Essex Street.
Residents were yelling and trying to get in the back door to help a trapped man.
Engine 2 Firefighter Angel Arrieta heard the commotion and ran quickly to see what was going on.
Residents were screaming that there was a man trapped inside the first floor, where heavy fire and smoke were engulfing the small – former storefront – apartment.
“He entered the side door and on into the first floor apartment,” said Deputy Chief John Quatieri. “He couldn’t see at all. The smoke was backed up down to the floor. He got in 15 feet on all fours and found what he thought was a pile of clothes. He got his flashlight on the pile and realized it was a person. Angel dragged the person out the 15-foot corridor to the back door. There, he was able to pass the person to some other firefighters who were waiting outside. They immediately performed CPR on the man and he was rushed to Mass General Hospital.”
The 49-year-old man was last listed in critical condition and fire crews said it was a miracle he was still living after being dragged out of the fire, as he had no pulse.
“He was burned pretty bad and he wasn’t breathing when they pulled him out,” said Quatieri. “At last report, he was still fighting and alive.”
Fire crews also helped to assist three people and a dog get out from the third floor of the home.
The fire remains under investigation this week by Chelsea Fire and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Quatieri said on Monday they were still trying to identify how the fire started.
Quatieri said he was actually the first person to roll up on the scene after calls began to come in around 7 p.m. for a building fire.
“It was a very chaotic scene when we pulled up,” he said. “It’s the same old story. There were too many things that had to be done and too few people to do them.
“When I pulled up we had pretty heavy smoke conditions and fire was venting out of the front of the building,” he continued. “I struck a second alarm right away. Residents were screaming there were people trapped inside the second floor and the first floor.”
He said the first apparatus on the scene began evacuating residents from the second floor of the building.
The first floor was more complicated, though.
“It had heavy fire and we couldn’t get anyone in there until we had a hose line to knock the fire down a little,” he said. “The front door to that apartment was so heavily fortified, they had a hard time getting inside. Once they got in that front door, there was another heavily fortified door six inches inside of it.”
The one-story storefront apartment – which was a legal apartment – was a total loss. The two-story wood frame home had extensive damage, but is believed to be repairable.
Mutual aid included crews from Everett, Revere, Somerville and Medford.
There have been two serious fires on the same block in recent history, including a 10-alarm fire involving several buildings and a 1994 fire that claimed the lives of five children.