HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Three people were killed in a Holyoke apartment fire on North East Street Sunday.
The fire tore through an apartment building on the corner of North East and East Dwight Streets just before 9 a.m. Sunday morning, forcing 25 families from their homes.
Holyoke Fire Captain Anthony Cerruti told 22News one woman died after jumping from the fourth or fifth floor, and that another body was recovered from the building Sunday night.
Michael Arroyo was staying at his mother’s apartment and woke up to smoke alarms going off.
“I just walked out and when we opened the door it was black smoke,” Arroyo said. “We opened the door because of the alarm and then we just ran out. And when we came out everybody was jumping. I saw like three people jumping.”
Holyoke firefighters, police officers and emergency crews were seen running towards the flames within minutes to help. Some were seen giving CPR.
Victims were taken to the hospital by ambulance, and tears streamed down the faces of those who were uncertain of what happened to their loved ones.
Many residents woke up to smoke and flames. Some of them said they had to hang out their apartment windows to escape. Those families looked on in disbelief as firefighters continued to battle the flames throughout the day.
“I heard people screaming. Then I saw smoke and that’s it. When I opened the door there was a lot of smoke and I didn’t know what to do then I tried to escape through the window and wait for the firefighters,” Wilfredo Lopez, a third floor tenant said.
The American Red Cross offered assistance and the 25 homeless families were taken to the Veterans War Memorial Building on Appleton Street and the Dr. Marcella Kelly School on West Street.
Springfield and Chicopee Fire Departments helped Holyoke firefighters put out the fire. Cerruti said one firefighter was treated for a hand injury he got while setting up a ladder.
While firefighters spent hours fighting the flames, there was a shriek and a glimmer of hope. A cat could be seen in the window of one of the apartments. “I let him know that the cat was right there. So I guess the firefighter saw him and broke the window and got him out. I’m glad he’s alive,” the cat’s owner, Armando Perez said. Perez said he hasn’t named the cat, but thinks Garfield or Survivor might be suitable names now.
As the State Fire Marshal’s Office helps look into what started the fire, there is still questions as to how the flames got so big, so quickly.
“These buildings are protected by a fire alarm system so it’s concerning to us when a fire gets this far out of control,” Cerruti said.
It’s another question that firefighters hope to have answered starting the new year.