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Massive Dorchester Fire Started During Testing Of Emergency Generator

DORCHESTER (CBS) - A massive fire that ripped through Dorchester's expansive Treadmark Building last month started when a heat source was too close to combustible materials during the testing of an emergency generator, authorities said Wednesday.

The exhaust system for the emergency generator should have been at least one foot away from combustible materials. It was just three inches away, leading to the fire.

More than 125 firefighters responded to that blaze on Dorchester Avenue, which shut down the nearby Ashmont MBTA station and sent nearby residents inside because of smoke and poor air quality.

Dorchester Fire
Flames rip through an under construction Dorchester building. (Image Credit: Greg Leblanc)

The investigation showed that workers smelled smoke on the day of the fire, but did not immediately call firefighters.

"People should have called 911 immediately when they smelled smoke, not wait an hour and a half," said Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn.

Dorchester fire
Treadmark building damaged by fire in Dorchester (WBZ-TV)

Finn said the building's sprinkler system was fully operational, but was not on when flames broke out. There was no legal requirement for the sprinkler system to be functioning because the building was not occupied.

Officials also discussed the construction of the building, which utilized materials that the WBZ-TV I-Team found burn more quickly than others.

At the time of the fire, on the scene, Finn said those construction materials made things dangerous for firefighters.

"It was a very difficult fire to fight," he said in June. "It got into the void space. It's lightweight construction, which makes it very difficult for us."

On Wednesday, Finn maintained that he is "concerned" by lightweight construction materials, but he added that everything was up to code.

Dorchester Fire
Heavy flames on the roof of a Dorchester Ave. building. (WBZ-TV)

Fire officials said they will recommend corrective action in the future based on what was learned from the Dorchester fire.

Building Commissioner Buddy Christopher said the city hopes to look at what can be done to improve fire prevention during construction.

On Sunday, a huge fire in Waltham destroyed five buildings in an upscale apartment complex, raising concerns about the fact that the state no longer requires steel beam construction on large buildings.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Carl Stevens reports

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