Fast-moving Worcester fire kills at least two

Adjacent buildings damaged, evacuated

WORCESTER, Mass. — Sunday, in the pouring rain, Keilen Thomas looked up at the blackened shell that used to be his apartment. He could barely find words to describe the fire he survived just 30 hours before.

“Somebody that lives in here, they came and knocked on everybody’s door,” Thomas said. “Just telling everybody to get out. And within a matter of, honestly, couple of minutes, the whole place was just, you know, unbelievable.”

Unfortunately, everybody did not get out. Worcester authorities say two people died in the fire. They have not been identified, but Thomas thinks one of them was a friend.

“I kept screaming his name,” he said. “Man, God forgive me. It wasn’t enough time to really, you know, get anybody. When I tell you that place went up in two or three minutes, I’m talking like one one-thousand one, one one-thousand two, one one-thousand three.”

The six-unit dwelling, clad in butter-colored siding, is considered a total loss. Two adjacent buildings were also damaged to a point where residents had to evacuate.

“You see it on movies, you see it on TV, but when it’s really happening it’s a whole another ball game,” Thomas said.

While he was able to escape without injury, that was not the case for Woodward Hernandez, who lived on the first floor.

“My knees swelling, I got scars all over my arms,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez got those injuries because he jumped to safety. from a height of about seven feet. He was first alerted to the fire by a roommate screaming, “Fire!”

“I got up from my room and went to the kitchen,” Hernandez said. “The flames were on the back porch. They were big flames. In less than five minutes we tried to see if we could do something to ease the fire. Then a big explosion happened.”

Hernandez said as fire roared through the kitchen, he ran, busted out a window and leapt out.

“I passed out when I was on the ground,” he said. “Minutes later, I woke up and ran.”

Hernandez said two of his roommates are accounted for, but a third is missing.

“I haven’t heard from him,” he said. “We didn’t see him outside where the other people gathered.”

Hernandez planned to sleep in his broken-down Toyota Tundra – but said Worcester Police told him it had to be moved or the truck would be towed.

“If they tow, I have no money to pay for transportation or to get it out of the place they going to tow it to,” he said. “I lost everything. So I really don’t know what to do. I guess I’ll just be sleeping on the streets.”

By late afternoon, a friend with auto mechanic skills got Hernandez’s truck to start up – and it was moved – at least sparing him the misery of having to deal with a tow.

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