By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter
NORTHBOROUGH – Mike Pizzarella was starting to drift to a deep sleep when he heard banging on his windows.
It was his neighbor, Lisa, yelling that there was a fire.
Mike had gone to sleep at about 10 p.m. His significant other, Erin, stayed up later, working on homework for online classes.
Mike woke up briefly around 4 a.m. He had turned the TV off and rolled over when Lisa woke him up once again.
“At first, it seemed more like an overreaction,” Mike said in a recent interview with the Community Advocate. “I was thinking maybe a stove was on fire.”
Mike was in a daze as he and Erin exited their apartment at 129 Maple St.
That’s when he noticed a strange smell and looked up to see flames roaring out of the windows of one of the building’s second-floor units.
Erin screamed. Her laptop with all of her homework was still inside. Mike ran back in and grabbed it.
“That’s all I grabbed was that one thing,” Mike said.
Lisa realized they didn’t wake up their neighbor. So, Mike barged through his screen door, yelling there was a fire.
The neighbor, who Mike said is a veteran and uses a walker, woke up.
“I said, ‘No, this is a serious fire. You need to get out now,’” Mike said.
Mike continues to thank Lisa for waking him up.
“I can’t put into words how much I thank her for her immediate response,” Mike said. “She was immediate. She was aggressively loud and in a very serious demeanor to wake you up.”
Fire trucks raced to the scene. But the building’s Unit One was fully engulfed by the time those firefighters arrived, Mike said.
Kevin Hunt remembered, mourned following fatal fire
Northborough Fire Chief David Parenti said they received the report at 4:20 a.m. on Sept. 10 of a fire.
Firefighters tried to enter Unit One but could only get so far inside because of how heavy the fire was, Parenti said.
By the time they did enter, they found the fire had killed a man later identified as Kevin Hunt.
Hunt, 40, was born in Rochester, New Hampshire, before moving to Shrewsbury, where he attended Shrewsbury High School, according to his obituary.
He was involved in various sports but “was most passionate about hockey,” scoring Shrewsbury’s game-winning goal in the 1999 high school state championships.
He played hockey at Worcester State while pursuing a degree in business administration.
“Kevin had a very successful career in medical sales and enjoyed his career very much,” his obituary noted. “He continued to be active in hockey and golf, as well as an avid Boston sports fan.”
Hunt had two children with his former wife, Kristal.
“Kevin’s true passion was his incredible love and devotion to his two children,” his obituary continued. “They were the love of his life and he was theirs. He was a truly devoted and loving father to his children.”
‘Northborough just always had that home feeling’
Mike was raised in Northborough before he moved to Leicester in the third grade.
Mike and his family have lived in their Maple Street home for the past three years. They have three children, Declan, 4, Sawyer, 3, and MichaelEnzo, who is nine months old. The children were not home on the night of the fire, though.
Mike loved the Northborough community as he grew up. He said the school system was excellent. The people were kind. Children played outside.
“It’s safe,” Mike said.
“Northborough just always had that home feeling,” he continued.
Mike didn’t know Hunt personally, though he met him several times.
“He came across genuinely kind and friendly and approachable,” Mike said.
“A mother and father lost their son, and two children lost their father,” Mike said. “Possessions can be replaced. Life — you only have one. I couldn’t imagine what this family is going through. Our deepest condolences from our family to theirs.”
Fire Marshal: fire originated in apartment’s bedroom
A Southborough firefighter was taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion experienced during this fire.
According to a press release from State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey, the fire originated in the bedroom of Hunt’s apartment.
The cause of the fire is undetermined, though there wasn’t evidence that the fire was intentional.
When authorities examined the scene after the fire, they didn’t find any working smoke alarms in any of the five units, one of which was vacant, the press release said.
“Smoke alarms can’t help you escape a fire if the batteries are missing or expired,” Parenti said in the release.
Family starts GoFundMe campaign
In the hours after the fire, questions began running through Mike’s head.
Where are they going to live? Where would their children stay? How do you explain this to the children?
“They have nothing to go back to,” Mike said. “At such a young age, we’re lucky they weren’t there because they didn’t endure trauma.”
Neighbors offered water.
One neighbor offered to have the family stay in their basement.
One person paid for the family to stay at a hotel for a week.
Community members stepped up and have donated funds, including to their GoFundMe, which can be found at https://gofund.me/5aff499e.
Specifically, the family is looking for gift cards to places like Walmart, TJ Maxx and Marshalls and children’s clothing stores like Carter’s.
Additionally, Mike’s Cash App is $itzthekidd and his Venmo is @MikePizzarella.
Mike invites any landlords who may have at least a two-bedroom apartment available to reach out to Mike via text at 508-389-3810. Anyone who wants to donate baby wipes and size three diapers for MichaelEnzo can also reach out.
“I want to thank the Town of Northborough for coming together on the day of the fire with donations,” Mike said. “It was so fast and overwhelming. We’re so grateful that there are so many good people out there that want to help.”