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.
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.
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.
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:
|| Greenfield (Franklin County)
|| Holyoke (Hampden County)
|| South Hadley District 2|
The following information was taken from the radio transmissions from the scene along with additional information from Northampton Control:
||First alarm struck - 26 Union Street – Structure fire with reports of people inside.|
||Second alarm struck – heavy fire in the back of the building.|
||Northampton firefighters recalled for second structure fire at 10 Highland Avenue.|
||Easthampton Fire called in to go directly to 10 Highland Avenue.|
||Third structure fire reported – Hatfield Fire called in to go directly to the scene.|
Ambulance dispatched to third structure fire to investigate.
||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
||Companies at 17 Fair Street notified that there are possibly two people trapped inside.|
||Westhampton Fire called in to go directly to 17 Fair Street.|
||Williamsburg Fire called in to go directly to 10 Highland Avenue.|
||First vehicle fire reported at 29 Williams Street.|
||Hadley Fire called in to go directly to Williams Street vehicle fire.|
||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.
||Northampton dispatch recalling all firefighters to report for duty for numerous structure fires.|
||Second vehicle fire on 16 Pomeroy Terrace reported.|
||Greenfield Fire redirected to 17 Fair Street structure fire.|
||Hatfield Fire called in to respond to 16 Pomeroy Terrace for vehicle fire.|
||Chesterfield Fire, Goshen Fire and Holyoke Fire responding to Northampton Fire Station for Station Coverage.|
||Two additional ambulances along with two additional apparatus requested.|
||Ambulance requested to respond to 26 Union Street for support and rehab.|
||Greenfield Fire arrives at 17 Fair Street.|
||Williamsburg Fire redirected to 16 Northern Avenue.|
||Fourth structure fire reported on Elizabeth.|
||Williamsburg Fire on scene at 16 Northern Avenue reporting fully involved garage.|
||Firefighters at Union Street Fire requesting additional air bottles.|
||Roving patrols set up to cover downtown due to a heavy layer of smoke.|
||Williamsburg Fire reports fire at 16 Northern Avenue knocked down with no extension into home.|
||Hadley Fire dispatched to 26 Union Street.|
||Highland Ambulance called to provide station coverage in Northampton.|
||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.|
||Goshen Fire arrives at Northampton Station.|
||Fourth vehicle fire called in at 112 Franklin Street.|
||Chesterfield Fire and Highland Ambulance arrive at Northampton Fire station for station coverage|
||Chesterfield Fire, Goshen Fire, Holyoke Fire, South Hadley District 2 Fire, Northampton Fire relocated to Cooley Dickenson Hospital for staging.|
||Williamsburg Fire returned to quarters, in service.|
||Hatfield Fire returned to quarters, in service.|
||Goshen Fire returned to quarters, in service.|
||Chesterfield Fire returned to quarters, in service.|
||Highland Ambulance returned to quarters, in service.|
||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, Northampton where Paul Yeskie Sr. (81) and Paul Yeskie Jr. (39) were killed.
17 Fair Street - before the fire
17 Fair Street - after the fire
Aerial investigation at 17 Fair Street.
17 Fair Street - State Fire Marshal investigator examining the debris pile while Sunderland firefighters douse a hot spot.
17 Fair Street - this small excavator meticulously picks through the debris pile while fire investigators look on.
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.
17 Fair Street - State Fire Marshal investigator watches over the excavation work.
(Sunday, December 27th, 2009)