A large blaze Friday morning torched two homes in a tight neighborhood in Haverhill, Massachusetts, leaving 20 people without a home.
The fire was reported around 10:30 a.m. on Portland Street. Windy conditions and tight quarters made it a tough battle for firefighters. Two homes were badly damaged and two others were singed by flames.
"There were reports of some explosions. Not sure if they were tires on the vehicles that were parked very close to the building. There were several that caught fire. Several vehicles got damaged back there," Fire Chief Robert O'Brien said.
No injuries were reported.
"Everybody's good," the fire chief said. "Everybody got out of the building. When we got here we confirmed that first thing and crews went to work."
Those who lost everything in the fire say they are upset but relieved to be alive after their Friday morning turned to chaos.
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Santos Gonzalez, who is among those displaced, says he got home about 15 minutes before the blaze started.
"I hear like a whoosh and an orange light shadow. I open the front door. The whole building in on fire," said Gonzalez, who got his child and girlfriend from the second floor and ran outside.
Joel Sabatino lives next door and took video on his phone.
"I saw people scrambling so I looked out and then I went to the back fire escape and I just saw smoke everywhere. Lots of smoke. Burning cars," Sabatino recalled. "The whole back of the house was lit up and then the cars in the driveway right here were totally torched."
Kelly Isenor says the organization has contacts with every fire department and sends volunteer disaster action teams to help the displaced.
“Every eight minutes in the US, the Red Cross does respond to a house fire or other disaster,” she said.
Isenor says when a smoke alarm goes off, people have two minutes to get out. The chaos leaves people needing the basics.
“Make sure that their immediate needs are taken care of. If they were cooking dinner, we have granola bars or snacks. Things like that,” she said of what their first job is.
The Red Cross has opened cases on everyone who needs help after this fire and finding people shelter is a top priority.
“We want to be able to provide them with money to maybe find a hotel for the night. Or to refill a prescription or buy a change of clothes if they’re in their pajamas,” she said.
That help can last for weeks and the Red Cross partners with other nonprofits to make sure no one slips through the cracks.
“All you’re thinking about and all you should be thinking about is safety and we’re there for the rest,” she said.
Residents who need assistance may call 1-800-564-1234, the Red Cross said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.