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IEDs, Body Of Missing Man Found In Fitchburg Building After Fire

FITCHBURG (CBS) - The body of a man who was missing after a fire in Fitchburg was found in the burned building with explosive devices in his apartment, according to Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr.

"The cause and the origin of the fire have yet to be determined although we did locate two improvised explosive devices, also known as IEDs in the apartment," said Early. "We also found some propane tanks in the apartment, they were located within close proximity to the propane tanks. Again, the bomb squad is taking [the IEDs] out of there."

Sources tell the I-Team the man had allegedly made threats against the apartment building recently.

A fire tore through the roof of a Fitchburg apartment building (WBZ-TV)

Investigators found an ID in the man's pocket, but can't release his name yet. They don't think anyone else is in danger. "We did make calls to his former place of employment to give them notification just in an abundance of caution," Early said.

As many as 60 people were forced out of their homes after explosions and fire tore through converted school on Beekman Street. The fire started around 5:40 p.m. Sunday and burned through the night into early Monday morning, causing part of the roof to collapse.

Fitchburg explosion
Firefighters and investigators at scene of Fitchburg apartment fire and explosion (WBZ-TV)

Molly Benevides was rescued from a third-floor window by a ladder truck. "There was an explosion, it was like a bomb," she told WBZ-TV. "It was just this thick black smoke and instantly I knew that I had to get out of there."

When she discovered the door to her apartment was stuck shut, she went to the window. "They were telling me not to jump. They were telling me that everything was going to be OK, that they are there and just to stay where I was and everything was going to be OK," Benevides said.

fitchburg fire
The fire destroyed the converted school building on Beekman Street Sept. 22. (Photo credit: Porsha Roberts)

A second resident escaped on her own and there's no word yet on her condition.

Porsha Roberts, who lives across the street, said she heard at least one of the explosions.

"I heard this loud boom and I jumped up and I looked out the window and that's when you could see (the fire)," she told WBZ-TV.  "As I went up to the third floor there was nothing but black smoke and flames. I just knocked on all the doors I could on the second and first floors and I got out."

Fitchburg Fire Captain Dante Suarez told reporters, "One thing was the size of the building. It's a 24-room apartment complex. We did have a problem with some water. Water issues. We're up on a hill here. So we did have to lay quite a bit of line to get the high pressure from the main street down below. That was probably the biggest issue."

The Mass. State Police bomb squad, the State Fire Marshal's Office, and the ATF are all investigating. The Red Cross and the Salvation Army are assisting those displaced.


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