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Northampton Arson Fires - GFD - 12/27/2009


15 Suspicious Fires, 2 Deaths, Over One Hundred Firefighters

NORTHAMPTON - The initial call from the dispatcher at Northampton Control came in at 02:30 hours.  We were asked to respond under mutual aid with an engine to fire headquarters in Northampton for a report of multiple structure fires.  The tone of the dispatcher’s voice was an early indicator that this would not be an ordinary response.


This map lists the reported fires and time they were dispatched.


Within minutes of that call, we radioed dispatch to notify them that we were responding to our station.  Dispatch informed responding units that there were now 3-5 structure fires occurring simultaneously.  Fire Chief Sue Labrie responded with Firefighter/EMT Bill Nugent in Car-1.  Captain Bob Labrie responded with firefighters Jim Lyons, Bill Connell and Jon Schwaiger in 56-E2.  Deputy Chiefs Rick Clark and Kim Dresser, along with Captain Steve Mollison, EMT Annmarie Dresser and Junior Firefighter Kristopher Dresser remained in quarters as back up in the event there was another call in Chesterfield, Goshen or Williamsburg.  Goshen Fire apparatus left the station at 02:38 hours and were notified that there were now 5-7 fires burning in the city – an unprecedented number for any department.


Highland Ambulance EMT’s Kyle Meservey and Josh Timm also responded to Northampton in 77-A1 while EMT’s Jeff Roske, Angela Colby and Kyle Walker remained in quarters in the event another rig was needed.


In the Hilltowns, early morning temperatures hovered around the freezing mark.  There was constant precipitation that ranged from drizzle to downpours.  Sand and salt that had been spread on side roads to make them passable had been washed away by the night’s heavy rains.  Extra caution had to be used due to the slippery conditions.  While responding down a nearly empty Route 9, we monitored radio traffic in an attempt to pick up clues that would help us understand what we were heading into.


Upon our arrival at Northampton Fire Headquarters, we were joined by Chesterfield’s Engine 2, a Ladder truck from Holyoke along with rigs from Highland Ambulance and Baystate Health Systems.


Display monitor in Northampton's fire headquarters shows the status of their department at 03:30 hours.


South Hadley and Goshen firefighters looking over map of affected area.


The display monitor at fire headquarters showed 8 active calls (4 structure fires, 4 vehicle fires).  All the fires were called in between 01:58 and 03:13 hours - a span of 75 minutes.  Shortly before 04:00 hours, we were directed to re-stage at Cooley Dickenson Hospital on Locust Street to be in closer proximity to the direction in which the fires seemed to be headed.  Once there, we were joined by Northampton (Engine 5), South Hadley District 2 (Engine 4), Chesterfield (Engine 2), and a ladder truck from Holyoke.


Northampton, South Hadley, Goshen, Chesterfield and Holyoke (not pictured) apparatus stage at Cooley Dickenson Hospital.


For the next several hours, our role was to stand by and respond to any additional calls that came into the city or provide manpower to relieve other companies working at any of the numerous fire scenes that dotted the area.  During that time, radio traffic began to subside.  This provided a good indication that whoever had started this series of fires had stopped.  As a result, we were released shortly before daybreak and returned to quarters.


On scene observations along with a review of radio dispatches indicated that the following fire departments responded to the initial call for mutual aid:


 Amherst  Chesterfield  Easthampton
 Goshen  Greenfield (Franklin County)  Hadley
 Hatfield  Holyoke (Hampden County)  South Hadley District 2
 Sunderland  Whately  Williamsburg


The following information was taken from the radio transmissions from the scene along with additional information from Northampton Control:


 Time  Event
 01:57AM First alarm struck - 26 Union Street – Structure fire with reports of people inside.
 02:02AM Second alarm struck – heavy fire in the back of the building.
 02:05AM Northampton firefighters recalled for second structure fire at 10 Highland Avenue.
 02:05AM Easthampton Fire called in to go directly to 10 Highland Avenue.
 02:12AM Third structure fire reported – Hatfield Fire called in to go directly to the scene.

Ambulance dispatched to third structure fire to investigate.

 02:12AM One ambulance crew (60-A2) instructed to go to Florence station to pick up Engine 3.   60-A3 ambulance crew dispatched to third structure fire at 17 Fair Street to investigate.

Third alarm struck - Amherst Fire dispatched to 17 Fair Street.  Williamsburg Fire and Hatfield fire dispatched

 02:21AM Companies at 17 Fair Street notified that there are possibly two people trapped inside.
 02:26AM Westhampton Fire called in to go directly to 17 Fair Street.
 02:30AM Williamsburg Fire called in to go directly to 10 Highland Avenue.
 02:30AM First vehicle fire reported at 29 Williams Street.
 02:30AM Hadley Fire called in to go directly to Williams Street vehicle fire.
 02:30AM Chesterfield Fire and Goshen Fire dispatched to Northampton Fire Station.

Report received that vehicle fire at 29 Williams Street has involved a second vehicle.  Car fire is now impinging on an adjacent house.

 02:32AM Northampton dispatch recalling all firefighters to report for duty for numerous structure fires.
 02:35AM Second vehicle fire on 16 Pomeroy Terrace reported.
 02:37AM Greenfield Fire redirected to 17 Fair Street structure fire.
 02:38AM Hatfield Fire called in to respond to 16 Pomeroy Terrace for vehicle fire.
 02:38AM Chesterfield Fire, Goshen Fire and Holyoke Fire responding to Northampton Fire Station for Station Coverage.
 02:40AM Two additional ambulances along with two additional apparatus requested.
 02:41AM Ambulance requested to respond to 26 Union Street for support and rehab.
 02:43AM Greenfield Fire arrives at 17 Fair Street.
 02:45AM Williamsburg Fire redirected to 16 Northern Avenue.
 02:47AM Fourth structure fire reported on Elizabeth.
 02:47AM Williamsburg Fire on scene at 16 Northern Avenue reporting fully involved garage.
 02:49AM Firefighters at Union Street Fire requesting additional air bottles.
 02:50AM Roving patrols set up to cover downtown due to a heavy layer of smoke.
 02:54AM Williamsburg Fire reports fire at 16 Northern Avenue knocked down with no extension into home.
 02:55AM Hadley Fire dispatched to 26 Union Street.
 03:01AM Highland Ambulance called to provide station coverage in Northampton.
 03:06AM Third vehicle fire called in at 11 Crescent Street.  Vehicle fire now involving a structure there.  Hatfield Fire dispatched there along with Easthampton Fire and Greenfield Fire.
 03:08AM Goshen Fire arrives at Northampton Station.
 03:13AM Fourth vehicle fire called in at 112 Franklin Street.
 03:16AM Chesterfield Fire and Highland Ambulance arrive at Northampton Fire station for station coverage
 03:53AM Chesterfield Fire, Goshen Fire, Holyoke Fire, South Hadley District 2 Fire, Northampton Fire relocated to Cooley Dickenson Hospital for staging.
 04:52AM Williamsburg Fire returned to quarters, in service.
 06:12AM Hatfield Fire returned to quarters, in service.
 06:16AM Goshen Fire returned to quarters, in service.
 06:28AM Chesterfield Fire returned to quarters, in service.
 07:02AM Highland Ambulance returned to quarters, in service.
 07:57AM Westhampton Fire returned to quarters, in service


According to Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel, the following is a listing of the 15 suspicious fires that were set on the morning of December 27th:


 26 Union Street  10 Highland Ave  18 Highland Ave
 32 Highland Ave  17 Fair Street  25 Williams Street
 40 Williams Street  42 Williams Street  16 Pomeroy Terrace
 16 Northern Avenue  5 Crescent Street  11 Crescent Street
 117 Franklin Street  36 Henry Street  42 Fruit Street


Back in January 2007, Goshen firefighters responded to another suspicious call at 67 Hawley Street.  At the time, fire investigators attributed the blaze to the improper disposal of smoking materials.  Some are now questioning that finding since the arrest of Anthony Baye who lived 4 houses away at 85 Hawley Street.


17 Fair Street


17 Fair Street, Northampton where Paul Yeskie Sr. (81) and Paul Yeskie Jr. (39) were killed.


17 Fair Street - before the fire


17 Fair Street - before the fire


17 Fair Street - after the fire


17 Fair Street - after the fire


Aerial investigation.


Aerial investigation at 17 Fair Street.


State Fire Marshall Investigator looking over the debris pile.

17 Fair Street - State Fire Marshal investigator examining the debris pile while Sunderland firefighters douse a hot spot.

Excavator on scene.

17 Fair Street - this small excavator meticulously picks through the debris pile while fire investigators look on.

Arson dog at 17 Fair Street.

17 Fair Street - An arson dog trained in identifying accelerants used in arson fires works with his handler from the MA State Police on the front porch where the fire was first reported.

Fire Marshall staring at debris pile.

17 Fair Street - State Fire Marshal investigator watches over the excavation work.

(Sunday, December 27th, 2009)