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UPDATED: Congress Street Home Razed After 3-Alarm Blaze [PHOTOS, VIDEO]

North Reading-based excavator James T. Lynch demolish the home with two excavators and expect some 300-400 yards of debris to be removed from the Stoneham property.

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.

DBC October 11, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Does anyone know what has happened to help the people displaced by this fire? Is there a fund set up to accept donations? I presume the Red Cross is involved and hopefully the Saugus Salvation Army. Is there a need for clothes (ages, genders, sizes?), basic hygienic needs (filled ditty bags?), anything else?
Mark Ouellette (Editor) October 11, 2011 at 12:57 PM
Hi Dot, The Red Cross put the people displaced in hotels and is providing assistance where they can. I'm not aware of a fund being established where donations can be sent, but if I hear otherwise I'll make sure to post that information on the site. Thanks, Mark Ouellette Editor, Stoneham Patch
DBC October 11, 2011 at 01:08 PM
Thanks so much, Mark. Your report brought me to tears. We just can't fathom the devastation of afire such as this until it happens. My heart goes out to the landlord and tenants who face such loss but one must be grateful for no loss of life. Let's hope we all can rally around them and show them they are not alone and the amazing power of community will rise up to help all of them. I'm in!
Lauri Pattelena October 08, 2012 at 04:12 AM
I was on computer looking up some stuff about this as I am making thank you cards for Geno and Kim (Geno broke the door in yelling fire and Kim woke all the people up in the house) One year later today, I am going to be eternally greatful to those two people as my son, John O'Brien was also in that house and is alive because of the two people I mentioned above. Red cross helped them for one night in hotel then they had to pay and
DBC October 08, 2012 at 04:46 AM
Lauri, I don't know if it is my connection or the Patch but your comment is truncated after "then they had to pay and....." That's the last five words. I'd like to know the rest of what you wrote.
Lauri Pattelena October 08, 2012 at 12:03 PM
I think it was sort of overwhelming looking through so that's why I ended my post. The and is that I know what happened on the O'Brien end of things and not really sure on the rest of the people who lived there John and I are going to the house of Gino Mlerick to drop off
Lauri Pattelena October 08, 2012 at 12:07 PM
A small gift today and also to his fathers girlfriend which I believe the.both share the title "Hero" in my book, she had a tough time waking up my son and ex husband and then Gino broke the door and told them how bad the fire.was and to get out "Now" they will both always be heroic to us.
Lauri Pattelena October 08, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Johns former school replaced.some of his games and Xbox as a gift to him and Bills family had a fundraiser to help them out. Ginos sister gave them an apartment rent free for a couple months so they could.get on their feet. Awesome.
DBC October 08, 2012 at 12:27 PM
I am the freelance creative writer who the editor of the Stoneham Sun attempted to contact John for an interview regarding the fire, his perspective and the "good deeds" angle of Gino's and Kym's heroic efforts last year. If you would like anything covered as a one year later, not to be forgotten, article for the Patch and the Sun, please let me know.through the message I sent you on your FB account.
Lauri Pattelena October 08, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Would love that, thanks
Lauri Pattelena October 08, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Don't see a message on Facebook my email is LauriAvon@AOL.com
DBC October 08, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Lauri, look for the Messages link in the upper right side of your FB page. It is not in the News Feed or Timeline part as that would expose my personal info to anyone who reads your status. You should Delete your above post quickly for your protection.

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