HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Three people have been confirmed dead in an apartment fire that Holyoke’s mayor said has brought about a “heartbreaking couple of days in the city of Holyoke.”
Holyoke Fire Captain Anthony Cerruti told 22News that one of the victims of the Sunday morning fire died by jumping from the fourth or fifth story of the building at 106 North East Street, while the body of a second person was found as firefighters searched the building Sunday night.
According to the Hampden District Attorney’s office, these two victims were identified as 48-year-old Maria Cartagena and 55-year-old Jorge Munoz.
Late Monday afternoon, rescue crews found a third victim, but their identity is unknown at this time. The DA’s office said authorities are working to identify the victim and notify the family.
During a news conference Monday morning, Fire Chief John Pond said that firefighters, police officers, and other residents of the building were responsible for more than 10 rescues as the fire burned. Some 25 families, consisting of 49 individuals, are now homeless, including residents of an adjacent house on North East Street.
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The fire started just before 9:00 a.m. New Year’s Day, destroying most of the building’s upper floors. Pond said that firefighters would be working inside the building again on Monday afternoon. District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said that there is no criminal investigation being conducted in connection to the fire.
A majority of the families affected by the fire- at least 15 of them- have been placed in new apartments by the building’s landlord, Morse said. The other families are being housed in hotels until permanent housing can be found for them.
A donation center was set up at the Kelly School on Sunday, and Morse said that there was such an outpouring of generosity on behalf of the victims that they are no longer accepting clothing donations. Meanwhile, the mayor’s office hopes to raise $100,000 to help the victims meet their financial needs. A disaster relief center will also be opened at the War Memorial on Tuesday to address residents’ remaining concerns.
During Monday’s news conference, Pond, Morse, and Gulluni all praised the response of Holyoke firefighters and police officers, as well as the firefighters from other communities that had been called in to help.