An early morning fire in a Manomet condominium complex off Beaver Dam Road Saturday sent five people to the hospital and left 21 people temporarily without a home.
The 2:34 a.m. fire started when a resident of 4 Tide View Path dropped a cigarette on a tube feeding her with oxygen. The resulting fire gutted the woman’s ground floor condominium unit and quickly spread upward.
Firefighters found smoke billowing from the front of the building and flames roaring out of the back.
Fire Chief Ed Bradley said the woman helped the man she lives with from the condominium and then helped warn neighbors about the fire.
Some residents, however, awoke to find the common stairwell already in flames.
One woman suffered serious leg injuries after jumping from a second floor balcony to escape the building.
A local police officer persuaded a man not to jump from a third floor balcony. Responding firefighters helped the man to safety with a ladder instead.
The same police officer, James Keegan, later went into the building via another stairwell and helped lead other residents to safety.
Keegan was one of four people later taken to Jordan Hospital. Keegan and the two ground floor residents were treated for smoke inhalation. A local firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion.
Four other firefighters were treated at the scene and returned to duty.
The woman who jumped from her balcony was taken to South Shore Hospital for treatment of a compound leg fracture.
Bradley said it is amazing the injuries were not worse.
“When I heard the call I was afraid it was going to be a fatal fire,” Bradley said. “It was the perfect example of police, fire and EMS working together.”
As it was, first responding units, Engine 1 and 3 from headquarters and the Pinehills and Ladder 2 from Manomet, were faced with dangerous challenges.
One woman was on the ground with a serious leg injury, another was preparing to jump from a balcony, others units needed to be checked for occupancy, and the fire raged in the center of the building.
Firefighters from every station in town as well as from Bourne and Kingston eventually responded to the four-alarm fire. Onset sent a truck that recharged breathing packs. A special unit traveled from Middleborough to help firefighters recover. Carver and Duxbury firefighters provided station coverage.
Bradley said the fire caused $600,000 in structural damage alone. Losses are expected to increase as individual homeowners assess the extent of their personal losses.
Flames heavily damaged three of the 12 units in the building. Adjacent units suffered some fire damage as well. All 12 units in the building sustained smoke damage, leaving the building uninhabitable.
The town opened an emergency shelter for residents at the Emergency Operations Center in Cedarville. The American Red Cross assisted residents with longer-term food, clothing and shelter needs.
Bradley said the fire started accidentally and spread in a matter of seconds. “It started with an occupant who woke up to have a cigarette. She accidentally dropped it and it fell onto carpeting and bedding with tubing,” Bradley said. “It melted through the tubing of the oxygen. It happened right in front of her eyes and it got so big so quickly,”
Bradley said his men as well as Keegan deserve commendation for their response.
“You could hear people screaming for help, so you knew they were going to have their hands full,” Bradley said. “The crews did a great job working under those conditions, trying to account for everybody, establishing water lines, forcing every door through every unit”
Police Chief Michael Botieri expressed similar sentiments, saying that Keegan, a 2009 transfer from the Halifax Police Department, went above and beyond, without regard to his personal safety, to get people out of the building.
“I’m proud of his actions,” Botieri said. “He made a decision to put his own safety second to the people of the building, and he should be commended, as should the firefighters protecting the lives of the people there.”
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