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Worcester triple-decker fire death toll grows to 4 after additional victims discovered

Building owner suspects arson after fatal Worcester fire
Building owner suspects arson after fatal Worcester fire 02:26

WORCESTER (CBS) - The bodies of two more victims were found during the search of a 6-family Worcester apartment building that caught fire on Saturday, bringing the death total to at least four people. Heavy fire broke out around 3:30 a.m. at the triple-decker on Gage Street.

Firefighters initially said Saturday that two people died and three others were hurt during the fire. Investigators returned to the scene Monday and found a third victim around 8 a.m. Several hours later, a fourth victim was discovered.

Federal investigators joined the locals at the scene Monday as the building's owner openly suspected arson. Jim Li says a surveillance camera on his property captured a man lurking around the place early Saturday morning. "At 3:20, I saw someone was wandering around the building," Li told WBZ.

That was 10 minutes before firefighters swarmed the scene to battle a blaze that started on a rear deck and quickly jumped to four alarms.

There's still more debris to search. "They are removing debris by hand, so it's a very slow process," said Worcester Fire Deputy Chief Martin Dyer. "The potential does exist for more victims."

The building owner says the bravery of a first-floor resident saved many lives. "He was banging everybody's door," Li said.

The building's smoke detectors were working, but the building's owner and city officials fear some residents might have gone back to sleep thinking it was yet another false alarm.

The district attorney would not say if investigators have found anything in the charred ruins to indicate arson. "They're the professionals we'll let them do their work," Worcester Country District Attorney Joe Early said. "Can't speak to any of that right now."

The owner says his surveillance video is now in police hands.

There were a number of challenges for firefighters searching the building, including water damage, a collapsed roof, and snakes that had to be removed from one of the apartments.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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