WAKEFIELD — A 4-alarm fire caused serious damage to a building at 340 Main St. in the downtown business district on Sunday afternoon. Firefighters from multiple surrounding towns battled the blaze at Charlie’s on Main.
Wakefield firefighters under the command of Captain Paul Pronco responded to a reported structure fire at 340 Main St. at approximately 4:04 p.m.
Fire Chief Michael Sullivan stressed that Wakefield fire crews responded from the scenes of two previous incidents, one involving a medical emergency with a patient who had to be flown from Veterans Field by the MedFlight Helicopter with a head injury and the other involving an elevator rescue at 95 Audubon Rd.
Captain Pronco and the first arriving crews found fire showing from the alleyway and exterior wall of the building next to the Wakefield Cooperative Bank and ordered a second alarm at 4:10 P.M. This brought engine companies from Reading, Stoneham and Melrose as well as a North Reading Ladder truck to the scene. Chief Sullivan and Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Purcell responded to coordinate fire command operations with Pronco.
Interior firefighting crews reported high heat conditions and concealed fire inside walls and ceiling towards the rear of the second and third floors, prompting Chief Sullivan to order a third alarm at 4:24 P.M. The additional alarm brought fire engines from Middleton, Saugus, and Woburn to the fire along with a Lynnfield tower ladder.
Fire conditions inside continued to deteriorate, forcing firefighters to evacuate the building and initiate outside firefighting operations. Sullivan requested a fourth alarm for additional personnel, bringing fire engines from Malden, Wilmington and Winchester to the scene along with a Malden ladder truck.
The outside attack was successful in knocking down the fire and firefighters re-entered the building to compete extinguishment.
The fire was brought under control by approximately 5:30 p.m.
Sullivan stated that there were several factors which made this fire challenging. The adjoining buildings exposed to the fire were in very close proximity to the fire building. The Wakefield Cooperative Bank was separated by only a narrow 5-foot alley. On the other side, a commercial building containing an optical shop and several apartments was separated by an alley about fifteen feet wide. The 130-unit Brightview Senior Assisted Living Facility is only 20 feet away at its closest point to the fire building.
The fire building consists of older wood frame construction with many open void spaces inside walls and ceilings allowing the fire to spread rapidly throughout the building, the chief said. The building is home to two businesses, Charlie’s on Main Street and Dough Boys. The second and third floors contain two apartments. The building was heavily damaged by the fire and will require extensive repairs. There were four residents displaced by the fire who received aid from the American Red Cross. There were no injuries to building occupants, although two dogs reportedly perished in the fire. One cat was rescued by firefighters.
Troopers from the State Fire Marshal’s Office were contacted to assist local police and fire investigators with the fire investigation. The cause of the fire is still under investigation but is not considered to be suspicious. A Wakefield firefighter was not seriously injured when the floor that he was standing on partially gave way, causing his legs to go through the flooring. He was quickly assisted by another firefighter from his company before they both exited the building.
Sullivan credited the first-arriving firefighters under Captain Pronco as well as all of the mutual aid companies for their coordinated efforts in extinguishing the fire and protecting the exposed buildings.
The Cooperative Bank and Brightview sustained some minor smoke damage during the fire as smoke was sucked into their respective ventilation systems but were otherwise not impacted by the fire.