NATICK, Mass. — Firefighters have been battling heavy flames and a wall of smoke in a fire that has been burning since about 1:30 Monday morning in a building that houses about eight businesses in downtown Natick.
As of 1 p.m. the fire was "still ongoing but contained," according to police. Firefighters were working to take down the building so they could access the hot spots and put out the remainder of the fire.
The fire at 7 South Main Street, which is just feet from the Natick Common, grew to 9-alarms by 7 a.m. The building is about 13,000 square feet and houses several small businesses, including a print shop, a Christian Science Reading Room, a Chinese restaurant, a pet groomer, and a gift shop, according to Michael Hickey Jr., the chair of the Natick Board of Selectmen, at a news conference. He said he knew personally of at least one owner who was out of town on vacation.
Crews had a difficult time finding where the fire started, because the building, originally built in 1900, has been renovated into different units and configurations over the years, Dow said. Firefighters kept running into "hidden void spaces" as they searched for the source of the fire, and had to pull out completely and attack it from the outside.
Sixteen nearby communities have been called in to help as firefighters are using air tanks as they work to contain the blaze and dealing with the hot and humid temperatures.
At a news conference Monday night, Natick Fire Chief Michael Lentini said three firefighters suffered minor injuries and were treated and released.
Crews were forced out of the building as conditions deteriorated and heavy smoke made it difficult to see.
Several streets in the surrounding area have been shut down and a perimeter has been set up to keep people away.
Routes 27 and 135 have been closed -- and are likely to remain closed through the evening commute -- Natick Police tweeted. They are asking drivers to seek alternate routes and to avoid the downtown area.
The Nancy Kelly Dance Studio was a Natick institution where Nancy Kelly taught dance for 35 of her 45 teaching years. Her studio was one business that is now out of business as a result of the blaze. But, she views it as a setback.
"This is not a tragedy," she said. "This can be rebuilt because it's only four walls."
Almost 35 years ago, Kelly lost her brother and his fiance when they were killed by a drunk driver. Around the same time, she opened her dance studio.
"The people inside are the people that count," Kelly said. "It's my dance family. My little ones through my adults that I love. And that I love to teach to dance."
It was a member of Nancy Kelly's extended dance family that made a miracle possible on the day her studio burned down. As the fire swelled to eight alarms, unexpected salvation came.
Late this morning, Nancy happened to run into the dad of two girls who take dance lessons at the studio. That dad happened to be a Wayland firefighter who asked what he could do for her.
Kelly responded that she hoped to save something from the studio - something to remember all the years. That firefighter made a call and made Kelly's day.
From the ruins came awards and photos and a recognition that the Nancy Kelly Dance Studio was here. Still, as Kelly reminds everyone, it was only a place.
"We will find another place and we will be dancing soon," she said, proving that you can take away the walls, but you cannot take away the spirit and the determination to come back.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
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