Officials investigating cause of massive Boston-area fire

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BOSTON (AP) — Fire investigators on Sunday were trying to determine what caused a massive blaze that ripped through a Boston-area neighborhood, displacing an estimated 60 to 80 people but "miraculously" resulting in no serious injuries or deaths.

While the 10-alarm fire Saturday afternoon in Cambridge destroyed or damaged 15 structures and several first responders suffered minor injuries, Cambridge Assistant Fire Chief Gerard Mahoney said it's "nothing short of a miracle" no one was killed.

"If this fire was in the middle of the night, there's no doubt in my mind we would have had fatalities and serious injuries," he said. The fire department received the first emergency calls shortly before 3 p.m. About 25 nearby communities provided aid.

Mahoney said fire crews spent Sunday morning hosing down hot spots and later assessing the structural integrity of the damaged buildings. He said some buildings are beyond repair while others had only broken windows. Mahoney said about 10 vehicles also were damaged or destroyed.

"Some of these buildings are going to have to come down. There's no doubt about it," he said from the densely populated neighborhood, as the sound of heavy equipment moving debris could be heard in the background. "It's going to be a very lengthy process, a very lengthy process."

Mahoney said it was the largest fire he'd seen in Cambridge during his 33 years with the department.

Both state and local fire investigators were on the scene trying to determine a cause for the fire, which jumped from one building to another and that witnesses said looked like a fireball.

"We're just scratching the surface," Mahoney said, when asked about a potential cause.

Alpert Neal, chief of staff to Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons, said in an email that the Red Cross and local officials were meeting affected families to assess their short- and long-term needs. Simmons has set up the Mayor's Fire Relief Fund online to collect money donations for the residents. Checks can also be sent to the mayor's office.

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