NEW BEDFORD — Firefighters discovered a second dead body Wednesday afternoon in the charred aftermath of a fire that ripped through a four-story rooming house in New Bedford’s North End.

The body, which has yet to be identified, was found on the second floor amid the rubble as firefighters demolished the top floors of the brick building. The body was pulled out of the building’s open facade by an excavator that was also gripping a mattress, according to witnesses. 

It is the second confirmed fatality in Tuesday’s fire.

The first victim was identified Wednesday morning by the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office as 59-year-old Manuel Moreira. He lived on the rooming house’s fourth floor. His body was removed from the building Tuesday night. 

“It’s just too painful to talk about right now,” said a woman at the scene of the fire Wednesday, who identified herself only as the sister of one of the residents who perished in the blaze.


Five people were transported to the hospital Tuesday for injuries and smoke inhalation. Two remained in critical condition as of Wednesday afternoon. 

The building was declared structurally unsound and is set to be demolished. The fire department used an excavator to begin tearing it down, starting with the top floor facing east and working downward. The facade of the building was brick while the interior frame was wood. 

The Fire Department was focused Wednesday on recovering any fatalities and quickly demolishing the unstable building. State police dogs worked the ground while drones hovered overhead to assist the demolition. 

But questions still remain about the cause of the deadly fire. 

Now that all victims previously unaccounted for have been found, New Bedford Fire Chief Scott Kruger said that his priority will be “to look at the area of origin where the fire started.” 

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Massachusetts State Fire marshals, New Bedford police and the District Attorney’s office are all assisting the fire department in the ongoing investigation.

The fire was first called in at about 3:15 p.m., Tuesday. Residents were seen jumping out of windows to escape the blaze as firefighters arrived on scene. 

“The fire had control of the building by the time we arrived,” New Bedford Fire Chief Scott Kruger said Tuesday. “It became dangerous very quickly.”

All six engines in the city’s fire department responded. Firefighters worked through the night to knock down the flames, secure the building and remained working on demolition into Wednesday night. 

The city and the fire department have yet to release information on whether the building had recently been inspected or if it was up to date on all fire codes. 

One person who lived on the third floor said that there were no sprinklers in the building at the time of the fire. A family member of one resident said that the hatch to the fire escape ladder was locked, forcing some to jump from the second-story wooden balcony. 

“We’re aware of their concern,” Kruger said, in regards to the fire escape. “We’re looking at every facet of this incident in our investigation.” 

The building was a 31-unit boarding house, built in 1907, with each unit locking individually and each floor sharing a common bathroom, according to residents. Its website lists rent at $170 per week. 

The property was sold for $1 in December 2022 to “1305 Acushnet Ave LLC,” a Rhode Island based real estate firm, according to deeds in the Bristol County registry. The corporation was formed in May 2022 and lists: Steven Kut and Melanie Santos, both of Westport; Michael Schein and Kenneth Hoffman, both of North Kingstown, R.I.

The building was previously owned by Dennis Arsenault, who owns at least one other rooming house in New Bedford. In May 2022, Arsenault resigned as sole trustee of the real estate firm, registered as “Royal Crown Realty Trust,” and made Kenneth Hoffman the trustee. 

Records show it was then sold for $1 in December — seven months later. 

The owners of the property had filed to evict at least five tenants between February and March, according to court records. 

Email staff reporter Will Sennott at

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    1. It us unsafe for investigators to enter. It is being torn down as slow as possible to identify evidence as revealed in sections. Duh!

  1. Anyone who has common sense can see the cause of the fire. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but loose his soul. The love of mammon is the root of all evil. I pray for those who have lost their loved ones. May the Holy Spirit comfort them as they grief. Jesus is Savior and Judge. He will reveal the truth. It may appear dark tonight but joy comes in the morning.

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