A ELECTRICAL MALFUNCTION on the second floor may have caused Friday’s blaze on Eastern Avenue. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)


WAKEFIELD — The residents escaped safely but an Eastern Avenue home is likely a total loss as a four-alarm fire spread through the structure late Friday morning, causing  extensive fire damage to the second floor and roof and heavy water and smoke damage to the remainder of the house.

The homeowners, Patricia and Patrick O’Neil, lived in the home along with their three children. Patricia and one of her children were in the home at the time of the fire but were not injured. The O’Neil family will be displaced from their home for an extended period and are coordinating a place to stay through their insurance company.

A Wakefield firefighter was treated at the scene for heat exhaustion and was transported to an area hospital as a precaution. He was released several hours later and will return to duty today.

Wakefield firefighters responded to a reported house fire at 26 Eastern Ave. at approximately 11:35 a.m. on Friday.  Wakefield firefighters under the command of Captain Brian Purcell arrived to find heavy smoke and heat conditions on the second floor. Firefighters stretched a hose line to the second floor to try to control the blaze but were hampered by high heat conditions and poor visibility from the rapidly spreading fire, which had a considerable head start on them and had already extended into concealed wall and ceiling spaces on the second floor. As a result, firefighters were forced to withdraw from the building and fight the fire from the outside as flames started to penetrate the roof of the single-family home.

Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Purcell arrived on scene and assumed overall command of the incident.  Chief Michael Sullivan was out of town in Stow attending the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy graduation for Wakefield Firefighter John Carano.

A second alarm was struck at 11:50 a.m. bringing engines from Melrose, Reading, and Stoneham as well as a North Reading ladder truck to the fire. A third alarm was struck at 12:06 P.M. to bring more firefighters to the scene. Third alarm mutual aid included engines from Middleton, Saugus and Woburn and a Lynnfield Ladder truck. Numerous hose lines were deployed outside the building as well as a large capacity hose stream from a Lynnfield tower ladder positioned in front of the home.  Several additional holes were cut in the roof of the residence to gain access to the fire and ventilate the heavy smoke conditions.

The hot, humid weather conditions took a toll on the firefighters and a fourth alarm was truck at 12:56 p.m. so that fire crews could be rotated more frequently.  The fourth alarm brought in engines from Malden, Wilmington and Winchester as well as a Malden ladder truck.  The fire was brought under control shortly after 1 p.m.

Chief Sullivan reported that the single-family home was likely a total loss, due to extensive fire, water and smoke damage.

Troopers from the State Fire Marshal’s Office were contacted to assist local investigators with determining the cause of the fire. The investigation determined that the fire originated in a second-floor bedroom area. Sullivan stated that the cause of the fire is accidental and was most likely due to an electrical malfunction in an unknown appliance on the second floor. The occupants had reported a power outage on the second floor shortly before the fire was discovered.    

Sullivan credited the firefighters responding on the first alarm including Deputy Purcell as well as those from the 12 responding mutual aid fire companies for working together to keep the fire from extending to adjoining properties.

The fire chief said that extremely hot and humid conditions during the fire as well as the fact that the fire was discovered after it had entered and spread significantly through concealed wall and ceiling spaces made it very dangerous to fight and extinguish safely. He noted that firefighters “worked hard under difficult conditions in a coordinated manner that prevented more firefighters from being seriously injured.”

The fire was not officially declared out until approximately 4 p.m. A crew of firefighters kept a close watch on the property for several hours after it was declared extinguished.

Danvers and Lynn engine companies as well as a Burlington tower ladder company covered the town during the fire, responding to several emergency incidents.