81 forced out in massive Holyoke apartment building fire

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – A total of 81 people, 16 of them children, were forced from a large apartment building in downtown Holyoke that burned for more than three hours early Monday morning.

Firefighters were called to the apartment building at 115 Elm Street just before 4:00 A.M.

Anthony Wilson was one of the many residents who awoke to the frightening, growing fire. “I looked outside my the back door and porch and the big fire was everywhere. I thought the fire was right outside my door and it pretty much was on the back porch,” Wilson said.

The fire burned through the top floor of the building and through the roof. All firefighters were ordered out of the building around 5:00 A.M., because the flames were so intense that they threatened their safety. Two of those firefighters suffered minor injuries.

By 8:45, firefighters were on ladders, trying to put out the last of the flames from the top stories of the building. Holyoke Fire Capt. Tony Cerutti told 22News firefighters were also using hoses to spray down the front section of the building, in order to ensure it doesn’t collapse. Bricks could be seen falling off the building and landing in the street as firefighters worked.

Red Cross representatives are assisting the dozens of people who were living in the apartment building. According to Dawn Leaks, Director of Communications for the Pioneer Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, 27 families are in need of help following this fire. Volunteers are trying to determine the needs of the 65 adults and 16 children who lived there.

Some residents may be allowed to go back into the undamaged portion of the building to get whatever belongings weren’t affected, but there is no definite timeline on when that will happen. It is not likely residents will ever be able to live in the building again, Cerutti said. For the time being, most of the residents will stay in a temporary Red Cross shelter at the War Memorial.

Residents in a neighboring apartment building were also evacuated during the fire, and it is unclear when they will be given the all-clear to return home.

In addition to apartments, 115 Elm Street also housed two businesses, the JC Record Shop and the Osqui Supermarket, both of which face the Dwight Street side of the building.

Leaks said that this fire is coming at a particularly difficult time for the Red Cross, because it’s the end of the fiscal year, and their budgets are stretched thin. She is hoping that more people will donate to the Red Cross in order to help them continue to help the victims of disasters like this one.

Fire Departments from South Hadley, Easthampton, West Springfield and Chicopee all helped the Holyoke Fire Department put out this fire.

The United Congregational Church is accepting donations for the victims forced out of their homes due to the fire.

According to a news release sent to 22News, Mayor Alex Morse is asking local residents to consider donating clothes and household items at the United Congregational Church at Rebekah’s Closet on 300 Appleton Street in Holyoke.

The church is working with the Red Cross to accept donations from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00p.m., Monday through Friday until June 27th.

For more information about the donation site, please contact the United Congregational Church at (413) 532-1483 or the Holyoke Mayor’s Office at (413) 322-5510.

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