A pedestrian walking on Gould Street called 911 soon before 1 a.m. Friday morning to report that flames were showing from a home that had been the scene of a small fire earlier in the evening.
When firefighters arrived, Wakefield Fire Chief Michael Sullivan told Wakefield Patch that they found a large body of fire spread across the front of the house, with a second alarm almost immediately struck by Captain Riley.
During the initial fire Thursday evening, Sullivan told Wakefield Patch that the fire had started in the basement and that its cause had yet to be determined.
In a follow-up call Friday morning, Sullivan indicated that the cause of the fire was still thought to have been in the basement. A couple of large appliances were apparently in the basement, but as of Friday they had not been specifically identified as causing the fire. The Chief said that the cause of the fire was definitely accidental.
Firefighters remained on the scene until 6:40 a.m. Friday, and mutual aid - coverage as well as fire assistance - came from North Reading, Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, Lynnfield, Saugus and Woburn, reported Sullivan.
When firefighters left the scene of the first fire on Thursday evening, Sullivan said that all utilities in the house were shut off and that personnel had gone over the property with a thermal imaging camera after opening a number of holes in the walls and ceilings. The homeowners, a family with children, were reportedly staying elsewhere.
The home was at least a century old, added Sullivan, and like many other homes in Wakefield and the surrounding area, was built with a so-called "balloon frame" construction. Basically, this old construction method featured outer wall studs running from the basement to the roof, instead of being separated by floor as they would be today. This left unseen open spaces behind the walls as well, where fires can potentially smolder undetected and also spread more easily from floor to floor - in multiple directions. One way to lower the fire risk in these homes is to insulate the open spaces behind the walls, noted Sullivan.
The fire chief estimated that the home suffered at least $500,000 in damage and that it was most likely a total loss.