Worcester Fire Department Mourns Firefighter Lost in Five-Alarm Blaze

Firefighter Christopher J. Roy, 36, died Dec. 9. Seven other career officers from the department have died in December fires in 2011 and 1999.

The Worcester (Mass.) Fire Department and the city are mourning the loss of Firefighter Christopher J. Roy, 36, who died in the line of duty Dec. 9. Seven other career officers from the department have died in December fires in 2011 and 1999, including six who died Dec. 3, 1999, while responding to a fire inside the abandoned Worcester Cold Storage & Warehouse Co. building.

Roy had served on the department for two and a half years, Worcester Fire Chief Michael Lavoie said.

"This is a sad day for the Worcester Fire Department and the city of Worcester," said Mayor Joseph M. Petty. "Firefighter Roy died fighting a fire at 7 Lowell Street. The fire was first reported at 3:58 a.m. Initial reports were for a fire in the basement of the three-story, six-unit building. Ultimately, the fire went to five alarms. Conditions deteriorated rapidly with heavy fire forcing several firefighters on the second floor to evacuate. With the assistance of other crews and the Rapid Intervention Team, five firefighters escaped over ladders."

A second firefighter who was taken to a hospital was evaluated and released.

"Fire crews were heroic in their efforts to rescue their colleagues under extreme conditions," Lavoie said. "Every person on the fire ground gave 110 percent to try to rescue the firefighters who were in danger."

The department's Dec. 9 news release said the cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Worcester Fire Department, Worcester Police Department, and the State Police assigned to both the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Office of Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early.

"This is a difficult day for the Worcester Fire Department and particularly painful as this is the week we remember and mourn the passing of Worcester Firefighter Jon Davies and the six who perished in the Cold Storage Warehouse fire," the fire chief said.

Davies died in the line of duty Dec. 8, 2011. The "Worcester Six" who died in the 1999 warehouse fire were Lt. Thomas Spencer, 42; Firefighter Paul Brotherton, 41; Firefighter Timothy Jackson, 51; Firefighter Jeremiah Lucey, 38; Firefighter James Lyonds, 34; and Firefighter Joseph McGuirk, 38. NIOSH's September 2000 Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report on that fire concluded that they became lost in the six-floor, maze-like building while searching for two homeless people reported to be living there; the report said it is presumed the homeless people accidentally started the fire and then left the building.

NIOSH's report made a number of recommendations, including ensuring that inspections of vacant buildings and pre-fire planning are conducted and cover all potential hazards, structural building materials (type and age), and renovations that may be encountered during a fire; ensuring the incident command system is fully implemented at the fire scene; ensuring that a separate Incident Safety Officer, independent from the Incident Commander, is appointed when activities, size of fire, or need occurs, such as during multiple alarm fires, or responds automatically to pre-designated fires; ensuring that standard operating procedures and equipment are adequate and sufficient to support the volume of radio traffic at multiple-alarm fires; and ensuring that Incident Command always maintains close accountability for all personnel at the fire scene.

The U.S. Fire Administration also prepared a technical report on the fire.

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