ALLSTON (CBS) -- A four-alarm fire destroyed a home in Allston early Wednesday morning, leaving nearly a dozen people without a home. But investigators say it could have been much worse.
Boston Fire Commissioner Joe Finn said the two-and-a-half story house on Myrick Street had inadequate smoke detectors and sprinkler protection.
"We're very fortunate last night that we didn't have a loss of life," Finn told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.
Firefighters were called to the house around 12:25 a.m. as the fire burned through the back of the second floor.
It took about about five-and-a-half hours to put out.
"The challenge is the time of night," said Boston Fire Chief Steve MacDonald. "You know people are sleeping, so your first thought for the firefighters coming down responding is, is everyone out? Is everyone accounted for?"
In this case, MacDonald said, everyone was. He said at least 11 college students and young professionals were displaced from the three apartments in the building, but all got out okay. The Red Cross was called to assist them.
One firefighter was taken from the scene by Boston EMS and treated for a back injury.
MacDonald estimated the damage to the building to be around $1 million, and said it was a total loss.
Investigators believe the fire began in a rear bathroom, but were still working to determine a cause. Commissioner Finn said inspectors found several issues with the house.
"It was a building that was broken up into single-room occupancies, which is illegal," said Finn. "They had inadequate smoke detectors and alarm system in the building and lacked sprinkler protection for the number of occupants."
The neighborhood, popular among college students, has had a number of serious fires.
"In the last ten years, we've had three fatalities down there, and a number of significant injuries and disfiguring injuries, along with the displacement," Finn said.
Inspectional Services Director William Christopher says he believes that his department is making headway on the issue of unsafe housing.
"Across the city, we're doing an incredible level of investigation to get these things worked out," Christopher said. "This is not a tolerable situation, and we are going to hold the landlords very responsible."
Christopher said the landlord in this case wasn't known to his department before. He said he and Commissioner Finn will have a Thursday morning hearing with the building's owner to go over the violations.
MacDonald said inspectors will be busy starting Sept. 1, making sure new tenants are moving into buildings that are safe to live in.
"They'll all be flooding the area to look for violations and to hold property owners accountable," said MacDonald.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Lana Jones reports
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