A Congress Street home was demolished Monday afternoon following a three-alarm fire that ravaged the structure during the early morning hours.
The fire began about 4:30 a.m. at 17-19 Congress St., according to Stoneham Fire Chief Joseph Rolli. Several fire departments provided mutual aid following the second and third alarms sounded by the Stoneham Fire Department, including Melrose, Reading, Wakefield, Winchester, Woburn as well as others.
No one was injured in the blaze, according to Rolli. About six people living at the two-and-a-half story home have been displaced and the American Red Cross is providing hotel rooms for the affected families.
According to Rolli, the fire is not suspicious in nature. He added that the homeowner did not have issurance for the house.
One car and a Harley Davidson motorcycle were damaged in the driveway at the residence.
Two tow trucks removed vehicles from the driveway to allow room for excavators to come in and raze the home. North Reading-based excavator James T. Lynch headed up the demolition project, which began shortly after 2 p.m. and completed in roughly an hour.
"We had to knock it down because it wasn't structurally sound and it was going to fall down into the neighbor's house," Rolli said.
Bill O'Brien, who lived at the residence for five years, and Anthony Riley, a six-month resident, said they lost everything in the fire. While Riley's car was spared because it was parked away from the home on the street, O'Brien wasn't as fortunate, as his Harley Davidson sustained heavy damaged in the blaze.
A race to safety
"I woke up to screaming because I thought my landlord had fallen because he's 85 (years old) and is older and that sometimes happens, so me and my girlfriend take care of him," O'Brien said before soon realizing the house was on fire. "I ran in and got my son up, and as soon as we hit the stairwell it was brutal.
"The bottom floor was engulfed and we had to come down the front stairs, through the front door out to my neighbor's front yard."
O'Brien called his neighbors "awesome," saying that one man even went so far as to yell and scream and kicked in the front door to alert the homeowner that the house was on fire.
"He saved our lives," O'Brien said.
Meanwhile, Riley said he "heard the landlord downstairs panicking and we weren't sure if he fell or something" before they knocked on his door and yelled "fire!"
"There is a door right near the bathroom that I opened up and was going to have everyone go out the back door, but the flames were coming in," Riley recalled. "So I slammed the door shut and we ran down the stairs and out of the house."
Riley said he had time enough to grab his cell phone and shoes before racing outside the residence, but the fire destroyed consumed everything else inside the apartment.
"I was shocked there was a fire. I lost everything," Riley said. "It's just depressing."
Riley said he plans to stay with family in Medford and Watertown while he tries to save money and find a new place. Riley, who works for a Stoneham-based contractor, said his company just installed seven windows at the home two week prior to the fire.
While the blaze may have been in Stoneham, Melrosians actually thought the fire was happening in Melrose due to the dense smoke wafting through the Highlands at Franklin Street, according to several Melrose Facebook and Twitter posts Monday morning.