LOWELL, Mass. - Seven people died in a fast-moving Massachusetts apartment fire in the pre-dawn hours Thursday, officials said.
All seven victims were found in third-floor units of the three-story building that had businesses on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors, fire officials said.
"It's a tragic day for the city of Lowell," Mayor Rodney Elliott said.
A police officer on routine patrol was the first to report the fire just before 4 a.m., while several tenants ran about 100 yards down the street to the nearest fire station to sound the alarm, Fire Chief Edward Pitta said. But the building was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived. The fire eventually went to three alarms.
The victims' names were not immediately made public.
The cause and origin of the blaze remain under investigation, State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said.
The building did not have a sprinkler system, but was not required to, Pitta said. It did have an alarm system, and whether that was working will be part of the investigation.
Authorities say 48 people lived in the building, which sustained heavy damage. The roof was entirely burned away, while the outer walls were charred and the siding melted.
Several people had to be rescued from upper floors and taken to the hospital. The exact number was not known.
Witnesses said tenants were jumping out of windows.
Neighbor Sarin Chun said she awoke to screams and saw someone hand a child out a window to another person on the street.
The Red Cross is assisting displaced tenants and the city is accepting donations of clothing and other essentials, Elliott said. A relief fund has been set up at the Jeanne D'Arc Credit Union in the city.
Lowell is a city of more than 100,000 residents located about 25 miles northwest of Boston.