ROCKLAND – Three families lost their homes Saturday after a fire ripped through the top two floors of a triple-decker on Pacific Street in Rockland.
The fire sent two firefighters to the hospital, one after falling down a flight of stairs and after suffering a medical episode.
All the residents were able to escape, and one was sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
Hector Sanchez lived on the second floor of the house with his daughter and girlfriend. He was in the bathroom after getting off of work when the smoke alarms started to go off, he said. A few minutes later, his girlfriend saw smoke and told him to get out.
“The front door, we couldn’t get out because there was fire there,” Sanchez said. “The house was full of smoke real quick. It was quick.”
After trying to get out of the house, and being blocked by heat and smoke, he and his girlfriend escaped out the back. His daughter was not home.
Angelina Felix-Rharib lived on the first floor with her three children, but none of them were home when the fire started. She had just visited a nail salon and was driving down the street to pick up her mother when she saw smoke. As she pulled up to her mother’s house on the same street, she saw it was her house on fire.
“I left my mom and flew down there,” she said.
Felix-Rharib said her apartment was not damaged by fire, just by smoke and water, so they were able to salvage some clothes.
“We were able to get some pictures and stuff like that because there was no fire or anything like that,” she said. “We were very fortunate. On the second and third floor, everything burned.”
Felix-Rharib said she did not have renter’s insurance because at the start of the pandemic, they decided to cut down on expenses.
“And then this happened, even though it’s just a couple of dollars a month,” she said.
She said her family will live with her mother for a few months and try to find a single-family house to rent.
“We’ll take our time,” she said.
Felix-Rharib said the community support has been amazing, and people have volunteered to help clean out her house.
House fire is second tragedy for Rockland man
Sanchez was living in a motel for months at the beginning of 2020 after his last home, also in Rockland, burned. That fire, in January 2020, burned a six-unit building and displaced 20 people.
“Right now, the Red Cross gave me $520 and the cheapest thing was Motel 6 in Boston,” Sanchez said.
He works in Rockland and now must commute. He received some community and work support, as well as extra hours after the fire in last year, but he said he is unsure how much support he can get now that he’s lost everything a second time.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said. “We don’t got a place.”
January 2020:5-alarm Rockland fire displaces 20
Two firefighters injured
Fire Chief Scott Duffey said when firefighters arrived on Pacific Street on Saturday, the front porches were engulfed in flames. One firefighter jumped on the top of the fire truck and used a water gun to start hosing down the building, emptying the 800-gallon water tank.
Firefighters went into the house to try to fight it from the inside, but had to retreat because the flames and smoke were too heavy. They hit it with water from the outside. It took 30 to 45 minutes before the flames were knocked down and firefighters could go back into the house.
“It’s an old house, probably from the early 1900s, with dry lumber and multiple layers of vinyl siding,” Duffey said. “There’s dry wood and the second-floor porch had a couch and there were plants on the third floor. One of the residents said he only had 30 seconds to get out before being hit by the smoke and fire.”
Both injured firefighters were taken to the South Shore Hospital. The one who suffered a medical episode was being evaluated. The one who fell was released.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the fire crews there,” Duffey said. “It was the first hot day of spring. Under those conditions, it’s always tough.”
One cat missing
Rockland animal control officers said in a Facebook post that a cat, Maya, is believed to have escaped the house fire.
“We think that she is hiding nearby so please keep an eye out for her,” they said.
Anyone who spots the gray-and-white cat can call animal control at 781-871-3890, ext. 127.
Thanks to our subscribers, who help make this coverage possible. If you are not a subscriber, please consider supporting quality local journalism with a Patriot Ledger subscription.
Reach reporter Wheeler Cowperthwaite at firstname.lastname@example.org.