Mill House fire leaves 2 injured
Cause under investigation
Smoke billows out of an apartment at the Mill House on Wells Street in Greenfield.
Ethyl Wheeler, right, was asleep in her apartment, where the fire started.
A fire crew arrives on scene at the Mill House fire Tuesday night on Wells Street in Greenfield.
Flames lick out the third floor window on the Wells St side of the Mill House as fire crews attack the fire from the inside. Recorder/Paul Franz
GREENFIELD — “I woke up, there were flames in the living room, and the whole apartment was full of smoke.”
Ethyl Wheeler was sleeping when a fire broke out in her third-floor apartment at the Mill House Tuesday at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, when awoke to the sound of the building’s fire alarms. She realized it was no drill when she smelled the acrid smoke of a structure fire.
Flames were seen shooting out of Wheeler’s window, toward the south end of the 103-apartment complex at 75 Wells St.
Fire Chief Robert Strahan said at least two people, including a firefighter, were being treated for smoke inhalation and minor injuries.
Wheeler, who has lived in the Mill House for five years, was unharmed.
She sat swaddled in borrowed blankets outside the entrance of the apartment building while firefighters worked inside. She was only able to leave with the clothes on her back.
She couldn’t guess what started the fire.
“I have no idea how it started,” she said.
She said she has no Christmas tree and didn’t leave any candles burning.
Her neighbor tried to put out the flames with an extinguisher to no avail.
“I tried to put it out, but there was too much fire,” said Raul Cruz. “The whole living room was filled with flames.”
He left the building after he singed his hair fighting the fire. Cruz walked through the parking lot in a T-shirt, shorts and no shoes on the near-20-degree night, as runoff from the fire engines froze in the road nearby.
Wheeler’s neighbor, Cynthia Dodge, offered her a place to stay, as long as Dodge was allowed to return to her first-floor apartment. The Red Cross was called in to provide assistance to Wheeler and any other residents who may be displaced.
At press time, Strahan said it was too soon to tell which of the building’s residents would be able to return to their homes after the fire. Some residents, however, were able to shelter in place, and the building’s lobby was full of people trying to keep warm.
The fire was knocked down within 15 minutes of the response. After the flames were put out, the beams of firefighters’ flashlights could be seen cutting through the white smoke inside the apartment, as they broke out windows and tore into the walls and ceiling to check for smoldering materials.
At press time, the wiring inspector and fire marshal had been called to inspect the damage to the building.
Crews from the Bernardston, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Shelburne, South Deerfield, Montague Center, Northfield and Brattleboro, Vt. fire departments, as well as ambulances from Colrain and Baystate Health, responded to the scene.
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