Ice hangs on railings at Chestnut Manor. / Melanie Gilbert photoIce on railing below boarded-up window at Chestnut Manor. / Melanie Gilbert photo

16 residents displaced; fund-raiser draws $20,000

UPDATED Jan 27: Bridget Doyle, 88, has died and another woman was injured after an accidental fire in the seven-story Chestnut Manor early Saturday, Jan. 22, caused by an electric baseboard heater, which either malfunctioned or was in close proximity to combustible items. Officials identified the deceased woman on Monday, Jan. 24. Doyle's obituary >>

Doyle's death was the first in a residential in the state this year, Jake Wark, representing the state fire marshal, told YourArlington.

In a town news release, Fire Chief Kevin Kelley reports that the Arlington Fire Department responded to 54 Medford St., where a fire had started on the third floor. Fire officials were able to evacuate residents to a community room to keep them warm while crews suppressed the fire. The outside temperature at the time was 10 degrees.

WCVB, Channel 5, reported that a woman who lives on the third floor of the building called 911 at 4:06 a.m. and said a fire had broken out in her unit. Kelley said the fire spread, creating heavy flames and thick, black smoke inside the building.

Kelley told WCVB that a woman who lives in the unit where the fire started was transported to an area hospital for further medical evaluation. She is expected to be OK.

The fire chief added that another resident, a woman over the age of 65 who lives on the same floor, was found suffering from cardiac arrest in her unit. Emergency crews performed CPR at the scene and that woman was transported to an area hospital, where she later died of her injuries.

The victim's name was released Jan. 24 after her family was notified and she was formally identified by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. 

Tenant VP released

The injured woman, identified as Margaret Sheehan, vice president of the Chestnut Manor Tenant's Association, has been released from the hospital, Jack Nagle, housing authority executive director, has reported. He told YourArlington: "I'd like to express my thanks and gratitude for the enormous amount of support that the Arlington Housing Authority has received over the past week in regards to the Chestnut Manor fire.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the resident who was in the hospital, and who has recently been discharged."

Kelley said he believes residents from 16 units are displaced due to smoke and water damage caused by the fire. Six of those units are on the third floor, six are on the second floor and four are on the first floor. The Massachusetts Department of Fire Services later confirmed that 16 people were displaced by the fire.

It's an awful lot of damage," Geraldine Malone, a Chestnut Manor resident who lives on the second floor, told WCVB.

Kelley said many of the displaced residents have been taken in by other Chestnut Manor residents, while some are staying with family members. The Red Cross of Massachusetts is helping find temporary housing for the displaced residents who need it.

Thanks, sadness

“I want to commend the women and men of the Arlington Fire for their swift response in suppressing the fire,” said Kelley in the release. “We’re saddened by the loss of life. Our thoughts are with the family of the woman who died. We also want to thank the Arlington Police Department, regional fire companies, and other organizations for their assistance.”

NBC10 video:

Fire companies from Belmont, Cambridge, Lexington, Medford, Somerville, Winchester and Boston as well Armstrong Ambulance, Professional Ambulance, and the Red Cross provided support. Arlington police assisted in evacuation, scene logistics and assisting the Red Cross.

Chestnut Manor, run by the Arlington Housing Authority, is a housing complex for seniors and people with disabilities.  Affected by the fire were 16 units on the first three floors of the building.

“Home heating is the second-leading cause of residential fires, and historically they are most common in January,” said Ostroskey in a news release. “It’s important to keep curtains, bedding, clothing, and other items that can burn at least three feet away from a heat source. Our ‘Keep Warm, Keep Safe’ campaign provides helpful information for home heating safety, with resources available in seven languages.”


The Department of Health and Human Services, through the Council on Aging has established a donation fund to support the residents affected by the fire. Funds will be used to rehouse residents that have been displaced and to replace items lost in the fire. The Council on Aging, will be coordinating resources to support the needs of residents in coordination with the Arlington Housing Authority.

To donate to the Chestnut Manor Relief Fund, click here >> 

AFD patch
Preston visits

Jo Anne Preston, vice chair of the housing authority board, following a visit to Chestnut Manor Jan. 22, told YourArlington: "Some will be moved to other AHA open units, and some will be moved to other local housing properties; however, all are either with families or settled into hotels at this point."

 Preston reported one elevator is now working, and a number of residents are returning to their rooms on the unaffected side of the building. Others were picked up by family members or will be reassigned to vacant apartments in the other senior residents or in neighboring housing authorities.

"The AHA executive director has been onsite working with the fire department and residents since soon after the fire was discovered," she wrote. "As the residents gathered in the first-floor community room, the Red Cross and social workers from the Council on Aging provided blankets, food and counseling.

"One side of the building is damaged by smoke and water, the full extent yet to be determined.

"State officials are now on the scene to investigate the cause of the fire."

Nagle comments 

Jack Nagle, housing authority executive director, wrote Jan. 22:

"We are grateful to Chief Kelley and the Arlington Fire Department for their quick response. We are also thankful to the other fire departments and agencies that responded to the scene.

"The Red Cross also quickly responded to Chestnut Manor, aiding the affected residents by providing them resources and assisting them with finding temporary lodging as needed.

"The Town of Arlington's Health and Human Services has been an enormous help. They have set up a website that will enable them to provide assistance for our residents. They also sent two COA social workers to Chestnut Manor.

"The Arlington Housing Authority staff are currently on-site communicating with residents and their family members as well as providing support and direct assistance. We are in the process of working with DHCD and other housing authorities related to finding housing for the residents that will be displaced.

"I would also like to express my condolences to the family of the deceased resident." 

Chapdelaine cites quick response

At the Jan. 24 Select Board meeting, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said, “Although it’s tragic to lose a life in Chestnut Manor, the quick response and bravery of the town’s fire and police departments saved the situation from being any worse.

“I also want to thank the Council on Aging for rapidly mobilizing with both the Health and Human Services department and the Red Cross in providing temporary shelter and lodging,” said Chapdelaine. 

It a donation page set up to help those affected by the Chestnut Manor fire,, Community members have already donated $20,000.

“We’re still investigating the cause of the fire to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again,” added Chapdelaine.

Early reports

The inital report of the fire fatality came from New England Cable News. YourArlington partner Patch also reported the death

Around 5 a.m., residents were seen being evacuated through the building's back entrance. Some family members arrived at the scene to pick up their loved ones. Others were placed on a bus to keep warm in the dangerously cold temperatures. Much of the water used to put out the fire has turned to black ice on the roads.

See NBC10 video >>

YourArlington has requested further information beyond the news release.

This news summary was published Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. It was updated Jan. 23, to add photo, video, Nagle's statement and a WCVB report; Jan. 24 to identify the victim; Jan. 25, to add link to obituary and comments from Select Board meeting; and Jan. 27, to report one woman released from hospital.