HOLYOKE — Three people are confirmed dead in a blaze that destroyed a five-story apartment building on New Year’s Day.
Hampden County District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni’s office on Monday released the names of two victims: Maria Cartagena, 48, and Jorge Munoz, 55, both of Holyoke.
The office also said a third body was discovered Monday afternoon in what remained of the apartment building. Authorities were working to identify the victim and notify family Monday night, according to a news release.
In a Monday morning news conference, Holyoke Fire Chief John Pond said crews found one person dead in the building Sunday night. Witnesses said they saw a woman, the first victim, jump from the building Sunday morning while the fire was blazing.
Pond commended the Holyoke fire and police departments and residents of the building who helped in several rescues Sunday night.
Pond said he did not have a firm count on the number of rescues, only that it was “above 10.” In addition, Capt. Anthony Cerruti said Sunday four to six people had been injured in the fire.
Before authorities announced the discovery of a second victim, Raquel Rodriguez, the property manager, said Sunday two people were missing and that they were the son and husband of the woman who had jumped from the building.
But in the news release Monday night, Gulluni’s office did not indicate whether the three victims were related or if the two bodies recovered later were of those reported missing, only saying an investigation was ongoing.
State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey could not be reached for any update Monday evening on the cause of the fire.
Officials at the press conference said approximately 49 people lost their homes Sunday.
Mary Nathan, western Massachusetts disaster program manager for the American Red Cross, said at least two families were displaced from their homes next to the apartment building because damage from the five-story building rendered the smaller one uninhabitable.
She said 25 families in the apartment building lost their homes to the fire in addition to the two families who lived in the building next door.
Nathan said 10 to 15 families had been placed in other apartments Sunday night. The others either stayed in hotels or with family, she said.
She said the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is coordinating an event at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Holyoke War Memorial Building, 310 Appleton St., to help families with relocation needs.
The burned-out brick apartment building is at 106 North East St. The smaller building damaged by the blaze is at 100 North East St., Nathan said.
Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse said in an interview after the news conference that the owner of the apartment building is Irshad Sideeka and the management company is Naviah Investments LLC.
He said at the news conference the owner and managment company are cooperating with the city, and that the city is in contact with Naviah’s insurance company in regard to demolition costs.
Gulluni said at the morning news conference there was no reason to believe the fire was set intentionally.
“The facts that we know now — this is not a criminal investigation going forward,” he said. “There is, at this juncture, no reason to believe that any criminal act is the cause of or contributed to the fire or any resulting injuries or deaths.”
Morse said in an interview after the news conference that there was no sprinkler system in the apartment building.
“I think one of the advantages of newer building codes is that there’s requirements for buildings like these — that are built today. They have sprinkler systems throughout the building,” he said. “This building did not have a sprinkler system due to older building codes, so that was one of the reasons the fire spread. It wasn’t as contained as it would’ve been in a more modern building.”
When asked if the city could require owners of older buildings to install sprinkler systems, Morse said “a lot of those laws are dictated by the state, but what we can do is make sure that apartment buildings have local alarms that are directly tied to the fire department headquarters.”
He said there was a delay between when the fire started and when someone alerted the fire department. The department responded at about 8:45 a.m. Sunday, officials said.
“Several minutes went by until someone actually called the fire department,” Morse said. “And again, once the fire department was aware they were there within a minute.”
Morse has set up a GoFundMe page for the families who had lost homes in the fire. As of 8 p.m. Monday, the effort had raised just over $27,000, more than a quarter of the $100,000 goal that was set.
Jack Suntrup can be reached at email@example.com