By Harry Kane
Somerville firefighters battled back-to-back fires last Wednesday in what seems like an endless season of blazes. These acts of arson, beginning in late June, are most certainly alarming, say city officials.
Last week August 28, in West Somerville, one fire engulfed a car and burned the side of a home on Summer Street, and another blackened a house near Tufts University, the latter taking place at 85 Bromfield Road and the automobile fire at 313 Summer St.
While the people allegedly responsible for these heinous acts lurk in the shadows, firefighters continue to fight the flames, as city dwellers look upon the blazes in shock and utter dismay.
On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “Dream” speech, firefighters responded to the eleventh and twelfth fires of the summer. But this wasn’t the first time homes had gone up in flames in the early morning hours. There’s been a rash of fires across Somerville, most of them happening before anyone is awake.
Officials have deemed three fires the result of arson. Five more remain under investigation. The rest have been designated as non-suspicious.
After the ninth fire, public outcry sparked the need for action. Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone held a press conference, and offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the culprit. No leads have surfaced as of yet.
For a couple of weeks it seemed as though the curse of frenzied fires had been subdued, but the saga continued last week on Tuesday with a top floor fire, due to an electrical mal-wire. Then on Wednesday a double whammy fire assault took out two homes and a silver Hyundai.
At 85 Bromfield Road, a two-story home went up in flames at approximately 5:30 a.m., apparently from a 3-seater couch on the porch. As neighbors watched, workmen cleared the scene of debris and boarded up the hollow house. The only remnants of the couch left were blackened coiled springs sticking-up from the charred floorboards.
Neighbor Seth Minkoff of 89 Bromfield Road awoke to the dancing lights emanating from the porch next-door. He looked out the side window and saw the lower front porch on fire. Minkoff dialed the police and listened to the crackling of fire on the wooden planks, trying to stop himself from breathing in the smoke and hoping the fire wouldn’t spread to his house. “By the time we got out of the house to look at it, the house was in flames to the third story,” he said.
“This is not the first time in Somerville that we’ve had a fire involving a couch or an overstuffed chair on a porch,” said Somerville Fire Chief Kevin Kelleher. “It will not be the last.” One precaution that homeowners should follow, he added, is to prohibit tenants from using indoor furniture on the porches.
Some 15 minutes later, and roughly one mile away, another fire started in the driveway of 315 Summer St. in a silver Hyundai XG 350L. The flames jumped to the nearby exterior wall of 313 Summer St. and burned up the side of the home from the basement window, right up to the roof.
Luckily, residents of the Summer Street home were away in New Hampshire, but when they returned to their home it was uninhabitable.
Both 2-alarm fires caused significant damage and displaced all the residents living in the homes – two on Summer Street currently living there, a couple more who were not home yet from summer break and three from Bromfield Road – but no one was hurt, except for an arm injury sustained by a brave firefighter.