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Staff member rushes to save neighbors from house fire

Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

Riding along with Boston police officers on patrol in the Mission Hill neighborhood, Mike Fitzgerald, a community-student liaison in Northeastern’s Office of City and Community Relations, was midway through a rather ordinary night. It was early Sunday morning, and Fitzgerald and the officers had just ended a noisy party, part of an ongoing partnership between police and the university.

But as Fitzgerald and Sgt. Joe Horton of the Boston Police Department continued their way through the neighborhood, the two started to detect a sharp odor.

“We weren’t sure if it was someone’s car or a fireplace maybe, but when we turned around the corner onto Calumet Street, we saw this huge fire that was already spanning two houses,” Fitzgerald said. “There was a woman out front yelling that people were stuck inside. Sgt. Horton called for help and then just ran straight into the building up to the second floor.”

Fitzgerald followed Horton inside, banging on first-floor doors to alert sleeping residents to the quickly growing blaze, which ultimately consumed three triple-decker houses on Calumet Street and sent one woman to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation.

Scores of Boston firefighters were on the scene within minutes, fighting the five-alarm scorcher.

“When they move, they really move,” Fitzgerald said. “Those firefighters knew exactly what to do to put that fire out and make sure everybody was safe.”

In total, some 130 firefighters worked to fight the fire, which was fueled by strong winds from this weekend’s storm. The fire began around 12:45 a.m. Sunday in the duplex at 37-39 Calumet, quickly spreading to the houses on either side.

“It was really intense,” Fitzgerald said. “You could see the fire just jumping from porch to porch and moving really quickly.”

Of the residents displaced, seven were Northeastern students, who are receiving housing, meals and other services from the university in the wake of the fire.