Fire in Mission Hill displaces 13 students

by Beacon Staff • October 3, 2007

An afternoon fire that sent a massive cloud of black smoke billowing from the top of 64 Louis Prang St. in Mission Hill last week displaced 13 residents, most of whom attend the Wentworth Institute of Technology, last week, a spokesman for the property's management said. Emergency personnel at the scene said no injuries were reported.

The privately-owned building is located between two Wentworth dormitories and students from Wentworth, Northeastern University and the Massachusetts College of Art were displaced by the fire, Jamie Kelly, a Wentworth spokesperson, said. He said Wentworth was assisting their displaced students in seeking alternative housing in Wentworth residence halls on campus. MassArt and Northeastern could not be reached for comment after repeated attempts to contact both schools.

The fire caused more than $300,000 of damage, according to Heath Properties, which owned the four units damaged in the fire.

Last year, Emerson students living in apartments at 62 Boylston St. were displaced by a faulty sprinkler head in the building, said Elin Riggs, coordinator of off-campus student services. She said her office tried to help students find temporary living arrangements, either by helping them find short-term leases with realtors with whom Emerson had worked, or by finding available dormitory rooms.

"I tried to identify and contact them so I could offer them my services, in terms of helping them find housing, get them in touch with housing and residential life to see if they had on-campus housing," she said.

Aliza-Ann Miller, who graduated in May, lived in 62 Boylston when her apartment was flooded by the sprinkler. She said the college gave her a $1200 grant in order to pay the rent her landlord demanded for the damaged apartment.

"I had a lot of help from Emerson," Miller said. "Dean [of Students Ronald] Ludman talked to me about the damages and Elin in off-campus student services helped me look up places for me to relocate."

At approximately 1:15 p.m. on Sept. 28, Boston emergency personnel, including more than seven Boston Fire Department trucks and multiple ambulances and police cruisers, began arriving at the scene of the fire. Boston firefighters broke windows and sawed through fences around the property to access the building. The block around the building, off of Huntington Avenue was closed off by Boston police officers to expedite the response of emergency personnel to the fire.

Wentworth residential assistants were on the scene directing students away from the building as though it were a Wentworth dormitory. Kelly said the RAs assisted the evacuation of the apartment building as they were evacuating neighboring dormitories.

The official Boston Fire Department incident report, provided to The Beacon by the BFD, indicates the fire was caused by the failure of an electrical or heating appliance and states that no human error contributed to the ignition.

Jodice and his roommate, Wentworth sophomore Kevin Griffin were on their way out of their apartment next door to 64 Prang St. when they saw the smoke.

Griffin said Wentworth gave him the option of living on campus, which he declined.

"I was pissed at first because I was told I had to move out, my clothes smell like smoke, my PS3 and computer are broken," Griffin said. "I'm still figuring out what's broken and needs to be replaced. Basically everything is toast."