Updated:HAVERHILL, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com) -- Firefighters battled a large blaze at an apartment building in Haverhill for about five hours Wednesday, and a mother had to jump off a third story balcony with her baby in her arms to avoid it.
The fire broke out at about 1 p.m. at 21 Forest Acres Drive. Residents say they heard a boom just before it started. Two 12-unit buildings were affected, numbers 21 and 23. A mother and 18-month-old were lying on the ground when police arrived on the scene. Officials say, the mother had jumped three stories with her child in her arms to escape the flames. The baby, Cameron, was alert and both were transported to the hospital.
The mother, identified by family members as Christina Simoes, was treated for serious injuries and as of Wednesday night, but Cameron was okay, according to officials.
"I actually went around the back of the building where there was a female who jumped from her second story balcony with her son in her arms and they have since been transported to the hospital," Sergeant Megan Buckley said.
Family members told FOX 25 that Simoes saved Cameron's life.
"I was laying in bed with my son, watching TV and all of a sudden, I saw smoke coming up past my window. I thought, that's funny, because nobody lives downstairs. so I went out on my patio and I saw that there was flames engulfing the whole side of the building," Simoes said.
As those flames devoured her building, Simoes grabbed Cameron, and looked for a way out. She opened the front door, saw thick smoke, and knew she was trapped.
"I ran all the way to the furthest bedroom in the apartment thinking that maybe I could wait for a firefighter. I looked out the window again, I realized there wasn't going to be any time to wait for a firefighter," she said.
And in those precious seconds, there was no time for being scared."At that point, I got up into the window and I put my legs out, and then I grabbed my son and I gave him a kiss. Told him I love him and then I jumped," Simoes explained.
She hit the ground hard, and broke her back, but she protected Cameron.
"When I fell, I broke my vertebrae so, I landed on my feet. But then I fell straight to the ground. He was perfectly fine. He didn't hit anything," she said.
She underwent surgery to have a rod put in her back Wednesday night.Heavy smoke could be seen pouring out of the building around 2 p.m., and part of the building's roof was burned away. The fire was so powerful, that flames spread to the woods behind the building and caused a brush fire. The deputy fire chief says the fire was so strong because it had a head start; it originated in the back of the building, initially hidden from view.
All of the residents were able to evacuate in time, unfortunately, some of their pets did not make it out of the buildings.
"Well I rang all the buzzers at the same time and then we just kinda got everybody out of the building. It was scary. I was shaking like it was my own house, but it went pretty fast by the time we got everybody out. I know there was some cats left in the building and pets," Cherie Caron said.
As a precaution, the power company shut off power for all of the units in the complex, even those that were not affected by the fire.
The Red Cross says they've helped 46 people, including children, who have all been displaced. Some will never be able to return to their homes.
The investigation into the fire remains ongoing, but it is not believed to be suspicious.
The police department announced on Thursday that anyone who wants to make donations to victims of the fire may do so at the Forest Acre's Main Office located at 28 Forest Acre Drive, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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