WORCESTER — Emelia Asabere said God prompted the tenants to get out of a burning three-family house at 80 Arlington St. early today during a fire considered to be of suspicious origin.
Ms. Asabere was sound asleep around 4 a.m. in her first floor apartment when she was awakened by a phone call. The building manager, who lived in the second floor apartment, called to see if she smelled smoke in her apartment or saw any flames.
His wife, Theresa Asafo-Adjei woke him up because she smelled something burning. Ms. Asabere stayed on the phone with him as she checked her kitchen and apartment. She could not find anything inside the building, so she opened a window to look outside.
“I saw flames; the whole building was on fire,” Ms. Asabere said. “So I shouted to get out. I was still on the phone with him. I told him they had to get out of the building.”
Everyone living in the three-family house escaped unharmed from today’s fire, according to Deputy Fire Chief Geoffrey Gardell. He said firefighters got a 911 call about 4:15 a.m. A second alarm was struck at 4:20 a.m.
Chief Gardell said the fire is believed to have been set but remains under investigation.
State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms assisted the Worcester Fire Department. An accelerant-sniffing dog was also on scene. Investigators took photographs and measurements, talked to residents and looked at several other similar back porches and wooden back steps in nearby buildings. There are several buildings in the neighborhood with boarded up windows.
Ms. Asafo-Adjei said she called 911 as soon as her husband told her the building was on fire.
The fire appeared to have started on a wooden staircase in the rear of the building and spread up the side of the three-decker into the attic, Chief Gardell said. He said the cause of the fire was still under investigation.
The building was blackened in the area where it looked like a hot fire spread up the exterior. Fire burned through the roof, and caused extensive fire, smoke and water damage in the building, which was built in 1906.
The two-alarm fire was quickly extinguished by firefighters, who prevented the fire from spreading to nearby buildings.
Two firefighters were taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center — University Campus for observation after suffering possible dehydration.
The fire occurred just up the street from 49 Arlington St., where Firefighter Jon D. Davies Sr. was killed fighting a fire of undetermined origin in December. The house was extensively damaged, with fire, water and smoke damage throughout the building.
Meanwhile, members of a local Ghanaian church came together to help move out the two Ghanaian families. A moving truck was secured and countless trips were made to the first and second floor apartments to retrieve as much of the two families’ possessions as possible before the building was boarded up.
Elizabeth Owusu was one of the many members of the New England Ghanaian Seven Day Adventist Church at 67 Vernon St. who came to help. “As soon as there’s trouble, someone calls and we all come together,” Ms. Owusu said. “That’s what we do.”
The American Red Cross also assisted the tenants, spokesman Kevin Molt said, by providing food vouchers to four adults from two families. Mr. Molt said the residents may receive follow-up services.
The property is owned by Charlotte Opoku of Mill Street, Worcester, according to city records.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Worcester Fire Department at (508) 799-1930, the Worcester Police Department at (508) 799-8651 or an arson tip line at (800) 682-9229.
Fires have been a problem in another city neighborhood. City officials Tuesday created a task force to address safety and housing concerns in the Pleasant Street neighborhood. The Greater Piedmont Neighborhood Task Force will work to find solutions for a number of issues, including a rash of 40 fires over the last nine months.