Blaze started in a condemned building

The dangerous blaze that injured two firefighters and displaced 13 adults and three children on Chelsea Street last month was originally thought to have started in the vacant half of 16-18 Chelsea St. but fire officials have ruled that the fire broke out in the occupied 16 Chelsea St.–a building that had been condemned by the city back in January.

According to the Boston Fire Department report the fire began in the front bedroom of 16 Chelsea St. due to faulty ceiling wiring. The fire traveled across the roof line and then spread to the vacant 18 Chelsea St.–a building that is being rehabbed by local developer Chuck DiPrima.

The building, owned by Viviana Cognata Aravena of Melrose, had been condemned on January 7, 2010 according to documents obtained by the East Boston Times.

At a hearing that day, Boston Housing Inspector Angel Nazario gave testimony in support of the condemnation of 16 Chelsea St. because he had noticed emergency conditions that existed inside the building such as faulty structural, electrical and plumbing work.

Aravena also gave testimony at the condemnation hearing.

The city ruled that 16 Chelsea St. was unfit for human habitation and presented a ‘danger to the occupants and the general public’.

However Aravena was able to go on renting the building to tenants, which included three small children, for another nine months before the October fire that destroyed the home and adjacent building.

The home was the scene of another two alarm blaze earlier this year but was not inspected by the City during its crackdown on firetraps and abandoned or vacant properties.

Last month, Inspectors from the City of Boston, Fire Marshals and a special unit from the Boston Police examined the outside and inside of nearly 15 homes in Eastie during Mayor Thomas Menino’s crackdown on firetraps.

Following the dangerous blaze that destroyed an old warehouse in Roxbury Menino vowed to get tough on what he considers dangerous properties in Boston which included these 15 Eastie properties.

Menino created an abandoned property task force. The task force is charged with monitoring these potentially dangerous properties in an effort to ensure their safety and the safety of the general public. If owners do not comply or make the necessary repairs ordered by the city, Menino vowed to take them to court.

However, 16 Chelsea St., with a fire already once this year and half of the building vacant, did not make the cut.

Back in May a fire on Gove Street killed two El Salvadorian immigrants and was caused by an electrical short circuit according to the Boston Fire Department.

The short occurred in an extension cord in a first-floor apartment at 64 Gove St. The subsequent two-alarm blaze took the lives of both Jose Santos, 48, who died at the scene during the May 29 fire and Berta Hernandez-Santos, 35, who was rescued from the building but died later at Massachusetts General Hospital. The two were recently laid to rest in their native country.

A third victim remains hospitalized with serious burns.

The blaze broke out at 2:30 a.m. in the stairwell at Gove Street triple decker, a tiny home that was packed with 13 occupants, and quickly spread throughout the building.

Firefighters were told of about Hernandez-Santos on the third floor that was having trouble getting out. When firefighters got to her she was already in full cardiac arrest and later died at Mass General in Boston.

Santos died after he was found in the first floor apartment suffering from severe burns.

The owner of the building. Ralph Cirulo, who, along with other family members, owns several buildings in Eastie. According to Boston’s Inspectional Services Department, the building, where each apartment is roughly 800 sq. ft., was issued violations for disrepair in 2008. Those violations were corrected according to ISD.

According to BFD spokesman Steve MacDonald, two adults and two children were living on the first floor, four adults were living on the second floor and five adults were living on the third floor.

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