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BFD Launches Probe Into Largest Fire in 25 Years

BFD Launches Probe Into Largest Fire in 25 Years

Firefighters investigated the ruins of a warehouse in Roxbury, where bricks attest to the building’s partial collapse during the blaze. [AP | Boston Globe]

Boston Globe via YellowBrix

August 23, 2010

BOSTON – The owner of a vacant Roxbury warehouse that burned to rubble in a nine-alarm inferno Saturday night said yesterday that he walked away from his business three years ago because concrete chunks from the towerlike building next door kept raining down on his property and Boston authorities were unable for the past decade to get its owners to fix the problems.

Candeloro Maggio said that when he closed his cold storage business in August 2007, he shut off electric and water services to the building and has no idea how the blocklong structure could have erupted into one of the city’s largest fires in 20 years.

“I am beyond disgusted,’’ said Maggio in a phone interview as he was driving to Boston from Cape Cod late yesterday afternoon to survey the damage.

“My business wasn’t viable because of the condition of that [next-door] building,’’ he said. “I asked the city for an abatement on my taxes and the city refused.’’

Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, said she could not confirm Maggio’s statements because she was unable to access the city’s records on the property.

“Whatever assertions there are will be looked at by the city,’’ Joyce said, “but at this point in time I do not have anything to support his claims.’’

Boston fire officials spent most of the day shooting water on the charred and smoldering hulk of a warehouse on Norfolk Avenue in an industrial area about a half-mile from Boston Medical Center and blocks from Boston Fire Department headquarters. The fire, which broke out about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, was declared out about 4 p.m. yesterday. Its cause remained unknown and officials said it was too early to determine whether it was suspicious.

At the height of the blaze, about 170 of the 265 on-duty Boston firefighters were fighting the flames, officials said, yet not one injury was reported. Menino, who went to the scene, credited good judgment and quick thinking by firefighters.

Chief Erik Pettaway “probably saved a lot of injuries to firefighters, and that’s how well-trained these firefighters are,’’ Menino said Saturday night.

It was Pettaway who ordered firefighters out of the building with seconds to spare.

Yesterday the scene looked apocalyptic and was eerily quiet but for the drone of engines, but Pettaway said that when he first pulled up to the fire Saturday night “it looked like a giant blowtorch.’’

Flames were shooting up from the warehouse that stretched at least six stories high, he said.

The first thought that shot through his mind, he said, was the 1999 fire in a brick Worcester warehouse that claimed the lives of six firefighters.

“Firefighter deaths are usually in large buildings like this,’’ Pettaway said. “That’s one of your biggest fears.’’

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