Jun. 11—LAWRENCE — Investigators are continuing to look into the cause of the 3-alarm blaze that drove 17 residents from their apartment complex on Shawsheen Court in South Lawrence Thursday night shortly before 8 p.m., Chief Brian Moriarty said.
Firefighters remained at the scene Friday afternoon, continuing to monitor the still-smouldering pile of rubble.
Moriarty said a call came in reporting the fire at 7:46 p.m. Thursday and the fire quickly grew, requiring mutual aid from surrounding communities including Haverhill, Andover, North Andover and Dracut.
"The fire was heavily involved on arrival," Moriarty said of the blaze that broke out adjacent to the Relief's In.
Adding to firefighters' difficulty, the chief explained, was a lack of water in the neighborhood.
"Our firefighters worked extremely hard in a trying time," Moriarty said, explaining that the city has long been aware of water issues in the area and that he made mention of the problem to Mayor Kendrys Vasquez during a walk-through of the fire scene Thursday night.
At least 12 residential units were impacted, according to Red Cross spokesperson Deb Duxbury.
Lawrence City Council President Marc Laplante, who lives about a mile away, came to support the residents in his district Thursday night and again Friday morning. He said the feeling of both shock and disbelief was palpable.
"Nothing is salvageable," Laplante said. "I can't even imagine what it must be like to return to the place that once was your home."
According to Laplante, residents in the surrounding complex are back in their homes and power was restored to the area at approximately 1 a.m. Friday.
Moriarty estimates initial property damage to be approximately $3 million. The fire chief said the property owner is cooperating with fire investigators and that once the investigation into the fire is completed, the property is expected to be demolished.
"It's a total loss," Moriarty said.
According to Vasquez, who was on the scene Thursday night to assist families, Heal Lawrence is collecting monetary donations to support the victims. Donations can be made online via heallawrence.org. Gift cards can also be dropped off at The Center, 155 Haverhill St., Lawrence.
Juan "Manny" Gonzalez is a Lawrence firefighter who battled the fire as part of the crew with Engine 5 from North Lawrence.
Gonzalez helped found Heal Lawrence alongside Wayne Hayes and said his heart remains with the victims even as he continued his shift Friday.
Gonzalez said he spoke to a married couple who lost their home and are struggling to rebuild because they do not have renter's insurance.
"If you have to stay at a hotel, one night at a hotel would pay for a policy for a whole year," Gonzalez said. "People face reality when things like this happen."
Should renters seek out a policy, a basic renter's insurance policy costs approximately $100 to $150, Gonzalez said. The policy must specify that it insures items and replacement housing in the event of a fire. Such coverage would allow policy holders to easily obtain not only emergency housing but also identifying documentation like IDs or a passport that may have been burned in a fire.
Fire victims in need of support from Heal Lawrence first must register with the Red Cross. Heal Lawrence then steps in as necessary to supply money or gift cards. As a result of Heal Lawrence's affiliation with its fiscal agent, the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, any client Heal Lawrence works with after a fire is eligible to take advantage of services that agency offers. All residents need to do is ask. To take advantage of the services provided by Heal Lawrence, call Hayes at 978-758-8499 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Checks made payable to Heal Lawrence's fiscal agent GLCAC are accepted by mail, with Heal Lawrence in the memo line. They may be mailed to GLCAC at 305 Essex St., Lawrence, MA 01840. Gift cards to Market Basket, Walmart, Target or area restaurants may be dropped off at the Lawrence Senior Center, 155 Haverhill St., with "Heal Lawrence" written on them.
Heal Lawrence is hosting a renter's insurance education program July 1 from 2-4 p.m. at The Claddagh Pub, 399 Canal St., Lawrence.