Jul. 27—HAVERHILL — City officials say the return of residents to the 273-275 Washington St. apartment building that was damaged by a fire on the night of July 20 won't happen until repairs are made to the building's fire alarm system and structure.
Twenty-eight people, including 11 children, were displaced by a fire that broke out in the attic of the nine-unit building.
Richard MacDonald, director of the city's inspectional services department, said the occupants of six of the building's nine units cannot return to their apartments until fire, smoke and water damages are addressed by the property owner.
"Any and all repair work requiring permits will be inspected by this department," he said.
MacDonald said three other units cannot be occupied until the building's fire alarm system is repaired.
"We've been told this work will not be done until Aug. 8," he said. "No one is returning until that work is completed."
MacDonald said residents of the building are being allowed back in to retrieve their belongings, but only under the guidance of the property owner.
No residents and no firefighters were injured, Fire Chief Robert O'Brien said, adding that the fire is believed to have been caused by electrical wiring.
He said several of the building's residents told investigators that they had smelled smoke around 5:30 p.m. but thought it was coming from outdoors, as their windows were open.
Then at 11:09 p.m., a resident called the fire department to report a smoke alarm was sounding, O'Brien said.
Engine 1 from the High Street station was first on the scene, followed by trucks from other city fire stations.
"The hallway in the area of apartment 9 was where the smoke was the heaviest so they ripped down the ceiling and found an active fire and attacked it while at the same time firefighters on the ladder truck cut a hole in the roof as the fire was in a crawl space above the third floor ceiling and beneath the roof," O'Brien said. "This was a great stop as it could have easily gotten out of hand."
At the same time, the rescue truck crew searched the building to ensure all of its occupants got out safely, he said.
Deb Duxbury, disaster program manager for the American Red Cross of Northeast Massachusetts, said her team opened eight cases with 28 people, 11 of whom were under the age of 18.
"We gave them credit/debit cards they can use for lodging, food, clothing and other needs, and we can also work with their insurance companies on prescription refills as we can help pay for those medications."