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Fire Guts Lawrence Hall; Wall Collapses on Firemen

By Garrett Epps

A fire gutted Lawrence Hall- the home of the Free University- early yesterday morning.

Four firemen were injured in the fire, which left homeless more than 30 Cambridge "street people" who had been living in the building since mid-April.

The fire broke out at about 4:45 a.m. in the third floor of the building. Some of those living in Lawrence Hall ran to the fire station on the overpass about five minutes later. Fire engines arrived on the scene in about 15 minutes, but by that time the building was blazing.

Nine engine companies and four ladder trucks- representing all 22 of Cambridge's fire vehicles- responded to the general alarm. Firemen fought the fire throughout the day, but the flames were not extinguished until much of the building was demolished by a crane in the afternoon.

Injured Firemen

The injured firemen were taken to Cambridge City Hospital where one was listed in fair condition with multiple fractures and the rest in good condition. They were injured when the front wall of the building collapsed.

Lawrence Hall, built in 1848, was scheduled for demolition this spring to make room for a new science center. It had been virtually unoccupied during the Spring semester until April 12, when it became the home of the Free University. About 30 persons- forming the Lawrence Hall Commune- beganliving in it.

The University released a statement yesterday which said "no permission to live in the building was extended to anyone."

The statement included a letter from Dean May to David Holmstrom, teaching fellow in Government and Social Studies who had been active in the Free University, which said that he was "concerned about the waifs who have begun to take up residence in the building."

Saying that city inspectors had found the building unsafe for occupancy, May added, "clearly, these waifs cannot remain there." The letter from May offered to "locate other shelter for them and help them find the assistance, including medical assistance, that many seem to need."

Holmstrom said yesterday that he had never received the letter.

No Removal Attempts

Archibald Cox. Samuel Williston Professor of Law and spokesman for the University, said yesterday that he had been aware of the activities in the building, but that he had taken no action to remove the occupants by police force because of the danger of precipitating a violent reaction among student supporters of the Free University.

Members of the commune said yesterday that they have been offered shelter in apartments around Cambridge, Students aiding the commune have set up an office at Adams House to receive and coordinate offers of food and shelter.

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