Fire Chief Reflects On Gateway Fire
Today marks one year since the historic Gateway Building burned.
A year ago tonight, the fire chief was at home when he got a telephone call saying the Gateway Building at the corner of Humphrey and Redington was ablaze.
On Wednesday, as snow flakes fell in early afternoon, Fire Chief Kevin Breen reflected on the fire that burned March 1 and 2, displacing the building's tenants in six apartments and six businesses.
What sticks out most clearly in the chief's memory was the rapid deterioration of the building as fire soared through walls to the upper reaches of the 19th century building.
Firefighters had knocked down the fire on the first floor, searched units for any occupants and were pulling fire hoses to the upper levels when the fire chief saw smoke pouring from around an air conditioning unit on the second floor.
In the race against the fire, it was gaining.
Smoke was also pouring from the eaves.
The fire was breaking out in the ceilings and concealed spots.
It was then he made the call to evacuate.
The Gateway fire ranks among the worse three in Breen's 37 years with the Swampscott Fire Department.
What he remembers most about the days after the fire was the complexities of having the site cleared.
Those issues involved the fire investigation — the deparment believes the fire started in the basement but did not determine exactly what caused it — removal of fire debris and concerns about any health hazards especially with an elementary school in the next lot.
Was there a lesson connected to the fire experience.
In retrospect, the fire affirmed the importance of inspections and interacting with owners, he said.
The department had conducted an inspectation to the Gateway building just prior to the fire, an inspection that lead to improvements to the building's fire alarms.
All the occupants got out of the building safely.