Two fires, freak car accident keep first responders busy

Mar 14, 2019 by

Published March 14, 2019


NORTH READING — It was quite a week for North Reading’s first responders last week. In addition to their routine calls, the town’s emergency services were called upon to respond to two structure fires and one potential water rescue in a span of five days.

Ten Rod Way

Just before 5 p.m. last Tuesday, March 5, a homeowner at 4 Ten Rod Way came home to discover visible smoke coming from the home.

According to provisional Fire Chief Don Stats, it was a single alarm working fire.

THE LONG REACH of the North Reading ladder truck kept the town’s first responders out of harm’s way while dousing the two-alarm fire at Park Colony storage units with 1,000 gallons of water per minute last Thursday. (Al Pereira/Advanced Photo)

“The homeowner reported the fire as she was arriving home and saw smoke coming from the home. We were on-scene for several hours due to the investigative process, although the fire was knocked down quickly,” Stats said.

He added that the home remained habitable “but due to the smoke odor the occupant opted to stay with family members.”

 While the cause remains under investigation, he said it appears to have been accidental.

“The department’s quick response led to a very good outcome, containing the fire to the area of origin by accurately assessing the scene and developing an effective strategy,” Stats added.

The homeowner praised the firefighters’ professionalism on social media, commenting how thankful she was that the firefighters cared enough to rescue some beloved stuffed animals for her young children. Her post garnered over 400 likes and many positive comments for the department.

Asked about this special rescue effort, Chief Stats told the Transcript that the members of his department recognize “the turmoil and destruction that fire and firefighting efforts cause, and we do everything in our power to do our job effectively and efficiently in minimizing the impact to the homeowners.”

To that end, Stats said, “the Fire Department will do whatever it takes to assist the community we are charged to protect, and in this case that meant retrieving some favorite stuffed animals. We happily do it!”

THE DAY AFTER a two-alarm blaze destroyed the metal storage sheds used by tenants at the rear of the Park Colony condominiums, the extent of the damage to many of the units was revealed. (Al Pereira/Advanced Photo)

Park Colony

The cause of an extensive storage container fire at Park Colony condominiums at lunchtime last Thursday, March 7 is still under investigation as well.

“Due to the stubborness” of this fire, plus access issues to the site, Chief Stats explained that it was necessary to go to “a second alarm plus two engines, which is just under third alarm.”

The storage units are located to the rear of the wooded condominium complex. The sub-freezing temperatures and snow on the ground didn’t help matters.

“We needed a lot of manpower to gain access to the metal-clad building in order to extinguish (the fire) and due to the weather,” Stats said, adding, “With any temperature extreme we need additional manning in order to rehab those (firefighters) that have been working in those extremes for any duration.”

“We did have a hydrant issue and due to snow pile up; a hydrant by CVS was utilized until a closer one was uncovered,” he said.

A key piece of firefighting apparatus in battling this blaze was the town’s ladder truck. While the storage units were only one story high, the fact that they were tucked away to the rear of the site made accessibility an issue.

“The ladder truck was extremely useful due to its reach, keeping responders away from danger, and its ability to flow 1,000 gallons of water per minute,” to douse the smokey fire, the chief said.

In the aftermath of the fire it appeared to be a total loss for many tenants and a significant loss for others, depending on how close the storage units were to the source of the fire. It remained contained to the storage area and no injuries were reported.

In order to access the hydrant at CVS the police assisted in shutting down a portion of Rte. 28. Afternoon bus routes to the neighborhood were also re-routed by the school department. Rte. 28 was reopened around 3 p.m.

CLOSE CALL. This station wagon came to rest a few feet shy of Martin’s Pond early Saturday night near the public fishing area at the Burroughs Road bridge after the driver experienced a mechanical issue. There were no injuries. (Ed Nicosia Photo)

Burroughs Road accident

Rounding out the week for fire and police personnel was a report of a single car crash at the Burroughs Road bridge on Martin’s Pond, opposite 44 Burroughs Road, around 6:30 p.m.

“Initial reports were a car into the water with a handicapped occupant trapped,” Stats said. “Due to immediate life safety concerns a box alarm was transmitted for additional North Reading resources. The duty crew responded in the ambulance with two members getting dressed in water rescue suits and the captain in the engine to light the scene and for additional tools.”

He added that mutual aid from Andover with ice/water rescue gear was also started as a precaution.

“The Fire Department has to plan on worst case scenarios and start resources early due to the seriousness of situations that we encounter. If we don’t start resources early, by the time we arrive at a scene, assess and request them, it could be too late,” the chief said.

Fortunately, no water rescue was required as the car had come to rest in the public access fishing area prior to reaching the boulders placed in front of the edge of the pond, and no injuries were reported.

In the interest of full disclosure, the driver is an employee of this newspaper who happens to be a wheelchair user and who uses adaptive equipment to drive. Michael Geoffrion Scannell also lives in the neighborhood across the street from this fishing access area. He explained that after backing out of his driveway and attempting to head down Burroughs Road part of his hand control device had gotten caught on his clothing. While attempting to right the situation he had jumped the handicap-access curb cut on the sidewalk and came to a stop on the snow- and ice-covered grassy area before the pond.

The first responders were able to use their wheeled chair to get him onto a solid surface for transfer to his own chair before the tow truck operator pulled his car up the incline. Amazingly, the Ford Taurus station wagon was no worse for wear.

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