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Firefighters Tackle Blaze at Howard Street Home in Melrose

A fire broke out Wednesday morning at 179 Howard St. in Melrose.

A fire broke out at a Howard Street home Wednesday morning in Melrose. Credit: Courtesy
A fire broke out at a Howard Street home Wednesday morning in Melrose. Credit: Courtesy
Updated at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15

Firefighters battled a blaze at a Howard Street home Wednesday morning in Melrose.

Shortly after 8 a.m. Jan. 15, Melrose resident Denise DeCicco said she was driving from Windsor Street onto Howard Street when she saw black smoke and fire coming from the rear section of the roof at 179 Howard St. 

Melrose Fire Captain Ed Collina said the department responded to a working fire at the home at 8:10 a.m. Melrose Engines 2 and 3, Ladder 1, Rescue and C2 responded to the fire, along with Saugus Engine 1, while Malden and Wakefield Fire Departments provided coverage at the station, according to the Melrose Firefighters Facebook page.

Prior to firefighters arriving on scene, DeCicco said she saw two vehicles parked in the driveway yet no one was outside the home and no one else around helping out.

DeCicco said she pulled her car over at nearby Carlida Road before running up to the front door, where she rang the doorbell, repeatedly banged on the door and yelled to see if anyone was home. 

A short time later a man driving by the fire stopped and came over to help DeCicco by also banging loudly on the door and shouting to see if anyone was inside. Eventually Nick, the son of homeowners Derek and Kristine Palumbo, answered the front door "half-dressed and in a daze," DeCicco recalled.

"He looked like he had just woken up and was in shock," she said. "I told him to get (his) pants, shoes and dog and get out of there."

According to DeCicco, Nick told her that no one else was inside, as his parents had taken his sister to the hospital for a doctor's appointment. DeCicco said she called Kristine to tell her that her house was on fire and that her son and dog were OK.

"She couldn't believe it. She was in shock," DeCicco said, referring to the moment Kristine learned that her house was ablaze. "She just started crying after that."

DeCicco offered to help Kristine by dropping off Nick at his grandmother's house on Summer Street. 

In a text message, Kristine thanked DeCicco for her assistance during the blaze.

"Thank you so much for everything," reads the text message from Kristine to DeCicco. "We really appreciate it. If not for you it could have been a lot worse..."

Upon arrival at the fire, "we had heavy smoke coming from the second floor roof line of the house, which was a 2 1/2-story Colonial," Collina said. 

"We wanted to make sure everybody was out of the house, and I met with the homeowner on the front lawn, stating that everyone was out so there was no life safety hazard in the home," he said. "When Engine 2 arrived, I knew we had a fire on the upper floors so we told them to advance their attack line to floor number two, and the fire ended up being in the attic.

"We had a ladder company crew deploy the aerial and was able to cut a vent hole in the roof to let the (smoke) get out."

Collina said the cause of the blaze is being looked into by the Fire Investigation Unit; however, "we're leaning toward overuse of extension cords in the attic space."

Building Inspector Paul Johnson visited the site and requested the homeowner have a licensed electrician disconnect the circuits in the affected area to make sure there are no water hazards before restoring service, according to Collina. He added that the home will be uninhabitable Wednesday and possibly Thursday.

According to Collina, the fire took about 25 minutes to extinguish and nearly two hours to clear the scene. No one was injured during the fire, he added.

DeCicco, a 14-year Melrose resident who formerly worked for the Melrose Public Schools system, said she wants to help the family out and may create an online account where donations can be sent. Find out how you can help here.

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