No injuries reported, dozens displaced in fires

SOUTHBRIDGE — Two three-alarm fires at multi-family dwellings in two days, about a half mile apart from one another.

Local firefighters and first responders from surrounding communities have been busy in the western side of Southbridge, fighting a three-alarm fire at 71 West Street on Thursday afternoon and a three-alarm fire at 88 Cross Street on Friday morning.

The West Street fire broke out in a middle unit around 12:45 p.m., tearing through much of the six-unit apartment building. Fire officials said the dwelling was home to 24 people, each of whom was forced to find someplace to stay as the blaze rendered the building uninhabitable for the time being. No injuries were reported. According to the town’s assessor database, the property was built in 1900, encompasses more than 4,600 square feet of living area, and has a replacement cost of $321,185.

The Cross Street fire broke out around 9 a.m. on Friday, causing heavy damage to the property. No injuries were reported in the fire and several pets were rescued. According to the town’s assessor database, the property was built in 1900, encompasses more than 5,200 square feet of living area, and has a replacement cost of $397,364.

In both fires, the American Red Cross was called upon to provide assistance for those left without a home.

Multi-family dwellings’ ownership connected?

According to the town’s assessor database, the West Street property is owned by 39 Newton Street LLC, care of Michael S. Kline of 613 Highland Avenue in Needham. Records show Kline also owns multi-family dwellings located at 7 Union Street, 41 Union Street, 658 Main Street, 664 Main Street, and 60 Cross Street. He purchased the West Street property in October 2016 for $210,000.

Curiously, the town’s assessor database also shows the building from Friday’s fire as being owned by a different LLC, though with the same Needham address. 88 Cross Street is shown as being owned by Berkshire Land Company LLC, care of GJD LLC of 613 Highland Avenue in Needham. That property was purchased in May 2013 for $650,000, according to the assessor’s database. Berkshire Land Company LLC is also listed as owning multi-family dwellings at 27 Moon Street, 114 Pine Street, 538 Main Street, and 15 Chestnut Street. While the town’s assessor database cites the associated limited liability companies as being located in Needham, other sources present conflicting information. Numerous sources show Berkshire Land Company LLC as being based in Blandford, while The Citizen Chronicle was unable to find any other evidence related to GJD LLC, nor was any link shown between Kline and either limited liability company.

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