Published in the August 9, 2017 edition
WAKEFIELD — A two-story building that formerly housed a school locker manufacturer was the scene this morning of a two-alarm fire on Hart Street.
The old Sallese & Sons facility at 7 Hart St. was in the process of being renovated by Reading electrician Neil Madden, who planned to use it for his business. Fire officials believe that some sort of temporary light may have fallen, igniting some combustible materials on the floor, although the cause is still under investigation.
It must have smoldered slowly through the night, officials added.
The initial call was received at 7:16 a.m., just before a shift change in the Wakefield Fire Department. The first crew arrived at 7:18 a.m. and officer in charge Capt. Christopher Smith reported heavy smoke showing from the second floor of the old warehouse. The entire building was charged with smoke and firefighters couldn’t see much. As a result, they had some difficulty opening the fire, according to Chief Michael Sullivan.
A hole was cut into the new roof that Madden had just put on the building, which did not help as firefighters continued looking for flames. Eventually, crews determined the fire must have been at the rear of the building, Sullivan explained, so they cut a second hole in roof. This allowed them to locate the flames and begin putting water on them.
A second alarm was struck at 7:45 a.m. for the manpower it brought. The initial difficulty locating the fire meant that Wakefield crews had to rotate in and out of the search, tiring them. On the second alarm, engines from Reading, Melrose and Stoneham went to the scene, as did a ladder from North Reading. Woburn, Saugus and Lynnfield covered the town’s fire stations.
Another issue with this morning’s fire was the fact that the building is right next door to Crystal Chemical, which is still in operation. Firefighters had some concern of a possible explosion if the fire jumped to the next building, Sullivan said. Fortunately, it didn’t.
The fire was knocked down by about 8:20 a.m. One thing that helped in the fire fight was the fact that there were few finished walls inside the building; it was basically wide open inside.
Sullivan said the building is “definitely saveable.”