Structure fire displaces apartment residents

Animals rescued from burning building

Devens firefighters with heavy fire venting the roof of the Groton structure that caught fire Monday afternoon.
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GROTON — A structure fire at an apartment building on Main Street engulfed the left side of the building and caused large pieces of the roof to collapse Monday afternoon.

Groton Fire Chief Steele McCurdy said officials received a 911 call for the fire at 373 Main St. shortly before 2 p.m. McCurdy said the fire spread “very quickly” within the building and made its way to the attic area, hence the roof damage.

An unidentified firefighter who was injured is tended to by fellow firefighters.

“In this building in particular, there are no sprinklers in the attic area,” McCurdy said. “So as the fire progressed outside of the building and got into the attic, there were no sprinklers to suppress that fire. Sprinklers in the attic area would’ve really made a difference.”

The chief said one firefighter sustained minor injuries while trying to extinguish the blaze and one building resident suffered from minor smoke inhalation. Both were taken to a local hospital and are expected to recover.

While he didn’t have a specific number, McCurdy said all building residents were displaced from the fire damage. He added that all pets, including cats and dogs, were rescued and accounted for.

Though the cause of the fire is still being investigated by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, McCurdy said the first bit of the blaze he saw was coming from the area of the building’s utility closet located to the left of the front door.

Groton firefighters extinguishing a structure fire at 373 Main Street Monday afternoon

“The building as it stands right now is not at risk of collapse, however it’s not going to be tenable by residents in the near future,” McCurdy said.

Barbara Dzagan-Patrick, who lives in a second-floor apartment in the building, said she had left the building early in the afternoon to go to the bank when her neighbor across the hall called her to tell her about the fire.

“I raced like hell to get back and help,” she said.

Sandi DeRuntz and her fiance, Matt Landry, live in one of the eight apartments in the building. DeRuntz said when she heard the fire alarms go off at about 2 p.m., she told her kids to exit out of the front of the building and then scrambled to save her dog and her neighbor’s dog. When police arrived on scene to help her escape, she worried she was not able to rescue her neighbor’s dog.

“I was throwing up with worry about the dog,” she said.

Ayer Fire Captain Timothy Shea with a rescued cat.

Jonathan Parville had lived in the now-charred building his entire life with his mother and sister. He also was away from the building when the blaze started. When his mother called him about the fire, he said he had to park his car near a section of Main Street blocked off by police and run along the Nashua River Rail Trail to get back to the building.

“When I got back, the whole left side of the building was up in flames,” he said.

According to the town of Groton, the property is owned by Dementian Guschov Jr., of Andover.

Members of the Ayer, Pepperell, Littleton and Westford fire departments were called to the scene to assist Groton. Littleton Fire Chief Scott Wodzinski said the fire was extinguished as of 4:46 p.m., though firefighters were still assessing the damage at that time.

After escaping the blaze, residents were disheartened at what possessions they may have lost and were waiting to see where they would be sleeping Monday night. Town officials and the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District have reached out to residents offering support. DeRuntz said she and other building residents felt comfortable and appreciative for those charitable efforts.

“This town talks about how it’ll be there for people, but a lot of us here haven’t experienced that,” DeRuntz said. “I hope that people will step up and take care of people. Everyone says ‘we’re all in this together,’ but there’s a lot of bias here. I’m just really worried and want everyone to be OK.”