“Especially Tough This Time of Year': Family of 3 Displaced Following House Fire in Cambridge

A Cambridge family lost their home and a pet following an early morning fire Sunday

A family of three have lost their home and a family pet has lost its life after an early morning fire in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Cambridge firefighters received a 911 called about a 3-alarm fire at 8 Van Norden St. at 6:16 am Sunday.

“We came out, we saw flames,” said neighbor Debbie Harris. “We didn’t know how bad it was in the beginning. And then the flames just shooting out of everywhere.”

Upon arrival, firefighters were immediately met by a house overcome with smoke.

Inside the home, the flames were trapped between the walls.

“What we call balloon frame construction,” said Cambridge Fire Chief Gerard Mahoney. “The fire gets in the voids. Travels, we have to rip open ceilings, walls to get out the fire.”

A woman lived on the first floor, and a woman and her daughter occupied the second floor of the home. There were also two dogs inside the home at the time of the fire. Firefighters carried out one dog, then held an oxygen mask to the dog's mouth to clear its lungs. The second dog did not survive.  

The difficulties firefighters had fighting the fire were made worse by a massive amount of property obstructing the firefighters reach.

“A lot of the storage, kind of hoarding conditions actually, had extreme difficulty on advancing on the fire,” Mahoney said. "We have to move all of this debris. We've already put a tremendous amount of debris out the rear of the building and that's what's causing the fire to be trapped in areas."

Mahoney said manpower was stretched thin for the fire due to a water main break simultaneously requiring attention of firefighters on the other side of the city.

The family that lives in the home is now out of their home for the holidays and perhaps longer.

"We don't want to see anyone have a fire in their place where they live, but it's especially tough this time of the year with the holidays and so forth," Mahoney said.

Harris, who has lived on Van Norden Street all of her life, says she has known her next door neighbors at 8 Van Norden for more than 60 years.

“The great grandmother, the granddaughter and her daughter,” she said of who lives in the home.

It’s unclear if Debbie’s neighbors will live next door to her ever again.

“It’s emotional when you know the people,” Harris said. “Especially when you’ve known them all your life.”

Fire officials say a firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene.

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