In the early evening, after the blaze had been put out by a crew of more than 70 firefighters, a cleanup worker named Jessica Reynolds was sweeping black sludge, a mix of water and burnt debris, off the first floor of Steve Knott's house.
"Is there any other sentimental items that you'd like removed from the house as soon as possible?" she asked.
George Knott looked around. The grandfather clock was already taken out. It was the one his dad had given his mother right before she died, and had stood near the 1930s-era wooden mantle. Both had been left miraculously intact, he said, as if protected by a shroud.
The homes had once been worker housing for a local sailcloth factory, said resident Doug George, 73. He was born and raised a few houses away, and returned to the block as an adult after some time in the military, and after his career and marriage ended.
Neighbor Dennis Cardiff watched as workers walked along the roof of the front porches, throwing down pieces of charred wood and debris.
Red signs outside the front doors revealed the structures' fate: Condemned.
Blue sky and clouds could be seen through the third story windows.
There have been other fires here through the years, said Cardiff, who lives up the street. "This whole block has had its sorrows."
George Knott said he, himself, had started a fire there over 50 years ago. He'd been just 4 years old. His mother had brought home clothes from the dry cleaners, and he was playing with matches. The clothes caught fire, the bag they were carried in caught fire and enveloped him. At the hospital they soaked his burns in ice water.