Fitchburg firefighters to be honored
Monday, December 2, 2002

By Matthew Bruun and Martin Luttrell
Telegram & Gazette Staff


By the time Fitchburg firefighters arrived at the Drury Building on Main Street early on Jan. 10, one occupant had been injured leaping from a third-floor window and others were trying to escape.
In the minutes after that, the 19 firefighters comprising the department's Group 4 would save five occupants of the building and keep the rest of a city block from being destroyed.
Tomorrow, Gov. Jane M. Swift will recognize Group 4 as firefighters of the year in a ceremony at Faneuil Hall in Boston. State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan and state Public Safety Secretary James P. Jajuga will be at the 11 a.m. ceremony. The annual event includes awards for individual firefighters for valor and honors groups for meritorious conduct.
Worcester firefighters who organized a three-day safety and survival seminar in September 2000 to raise money for a memorial to six fallen comrades also will be honored, as will firefighters from nine other communities.
Tomorrow's event will include a media presentation of the year's dramatic rescues, a brief speaking program and award presentations for the Medal of Valor, Outstanding Community Service, the Fire Marshal Award for Special Appreciation and a tribute to the six Worcester firefighters who died in the Worcester Cold Storage & Warehouse Co. fire of Dec. 3, 1999.
After the Cold Storage building fire, the Worcester Fire Department co-sponsored a three-day seminar on firefighter safety and survival that drew more than 750 firefighters from the United States and Canada. Proceeds from the seminar will be used to build a memorial to the six who died -- firefighters Paul A. Brotherton, Jeremiah M. Lucey and Joseph T. McGuirk, and lieutenants Thomas E. Spencer, James F. Lyons III and Timothy P. Jackson.
In the Fitchburg blaze, firefighters used ladders to rescue three adults and two children. Seven civilians and one firefighter were injured. Firefighters made sure stairways were kept accessible for occupants to escape on. The intensity of the fire threatened an entire block of Main Street, Jennifer Meith said.
The Fitchburg firefighters are: Deputy Chief Stephen Morand, Capt. Ralph Alario, Lt. Greg Richard, Lt. Gary Vaillancourt, Lt. Kevin Curran, Lt. Brian Belliveau and firefighters Erica Smith, Randy Doughty, James Nault, Stephen Gould, Todd Reese, David Gravel, John Lombard, Thomas Dateo, Charles Pierce, Scott Peralta, Mark Christian, George Robles, Scott MacArthur, Matthew McDermott and Valentin Ramos.
Fire Chief Kevin D. Roy, who was also at the scene that morning, said Friday that the fire could have destroyed the block because of the proximity of other buildings.
The three-alarm blaze, still under investigation, killed one occupant, Carmen Milagros Velazquez. The 45-year-old woman lived with her mother in the third-floor apartment from which her half-brother jumped.