An electrical fire broke out in the basement of an MIT-owned office building at around 11 a.m. Friday, and investigators spent the weekend combing through mounds of debris in an attempt to piece together what happened.
The fire at the 17-story building at 1 Broadway in Kendall Square left 800 evacuated, at least 100 employees suffering from smoke inhalation, and one dead—Kevin Fidalgo, a 28-year-old employee of electric and gas utility NStar and a former football player for University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Fidalgo and a colleague were in the basement, working on a transformer when it exploded.
The accident shut down the T temporarily Friday afternoon, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) was reportedly busing passengers between the Central Square and Park Street stops.
Ria S. Tobaccowala ’10, who said she and a colleague were on their way to teach civics for a program Friday, was unable to hitch a ride on the MBTA-provided buses.
“We took a taxi. One person was telling us there were buses. The overhead announcer said there weren’t any buses,” she said. “An hour and a half later, everything was working fine [because] we ended up taking the T back around 1:10.”
David P. Clemens, a software developer at Ascent Technology, said he was on the fifth floor when the fire alarms went off. When he and about 100 other workers tried to escape through the stairwells, they found them crowded with thick smoke, he said.
“As we went down, it got thicker and thicker,” Clemens said a day after the accident. “We got to the third floor [and] couldn’t go down. It was too thick. People were breathing through things, like through my hat.”
While in the third-floor elevator lobby, Clemens said he saw between 50 and 100 people frantically trying to exit.
“[We were] trapped, not being able to move,” Clemens said. “Finally somebody managed to get through one of the stairwells that had less smoke in it,..everyone was able to escape.”
Jessica A. Berger ’08, who volunteers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Pediatrics on Friday mornings, wrote in an e-mail that she and co-workers peered out of their 18-story building after hearing of the fire, spotting a helicopter and some steam at around noon.
“One of the patients’ parents came into the floor’s playroom and told us that there was a three-alarm fire at a building in Cambridge,” she wrote.
According to MGH spokeswoman Valerie L. Wencis, 17 people were taken to the Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. One of 17, Fidalgo was in critical condition and later died. Wencis said most of the patients were in fair condition.
Cambridge Fire Department spokespeople declined to comment this weekend.
MIT owns the building at 1 Broadway, which serves as an office for a few small technology firms and for the university.
—Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.