Chelsea firefighters rescued a man who remained asleep even as he was surrounded by roaring flames, rumbling fire engines, and the noise of high-powered water hoses during a three-alarm blaze at 74 Addison St. that destroyed a residential building early Monday morning and left 12 people homeless.
Chelsea Deputy Fire Chief Wayne Ulwick said firefighters from Engine 2 discovered the man inside. He said someone converted the rear wooden porch on the first floor into a one-room apartment large enough for a mattress and a refrigerator.
Ulwick said the man’s room was in the area where the fire was at its worst. He said firefighters had searched the first floor of the two-story building at 74 Addison St. without finding anyone.
But tipped by someone on the street that there was another bedroom in the rear, firefighters pushed their way through heavy smoke and fire conditions to a doorway that looked like it led to a storage area, Ulwick said.
In fact, the doorway was the only entry into the apartment, he said.
“They found him, thank God. They knocked the door down and pulled him out. He was still sleeping,” Ulwick said. “He was completely surrounded by flames. He had flames everywhere. He was lucky to get out alive. Very lucky.”
The rescued man declined medical treatment at the scene.
Ulwick said three other residents of the building were discovered in the rear of the building and brought to safety by firefighters from ladder companies. They were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, he said. Their conditions were not immediately known.
Ulwick said on arrival, the building was already heavily involved and that he immediately struck a second alarm, and later, brought more firefighters and equipment to the scene by striking a third alarm.
Once they were certain no one was inside, Ulwick ordered firefighters to battle the blaze from the exterior. He said he eventually ordered the firefighters back inside, but then again ordered them out of the building when he feared a possible collapse.
The second floor eventually collapsed, he said.
Ulwick said the building at 74 Addison St is completely destroyed and must be torn down. He said the adjoining building is currently uninhabitable.
About a dozen people are without homes, and are turning to the American Red Cross for assistance and housing.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.