EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 1, 2013

Leaders call for hydrant repairs

By Jill Harmacinski

---- — LAWRENCE — Two city councilors are calling for a review of all city fire hydrants after water problems contributed to a relentless five-alarm blaze that destroyed three homes on Hancock Street Saturday.

As smoke and flames rolled out of a home at 112 Hancock St., firefighting efforts were hampered by non-working fire hydrants and hydrants with poor water pressure, firefighters said.

The fierce blaze that ignited at 4 p.m. destroyed that house and those located on both sides of it. Lawrence firefighters with help from departments throughout the Merrimack Valley battled the fire well into the night.

Yesterday, crews were called back to Hancock Street at 9 a.m. when the fire rekindled. The repeat blaze was knocked back down in 30 minutes. The charred remains of a home at 110 Hancock St. were also ordered boarded up for safety reasons after residents tried to get into the rubble and retrieve belongings, said fire Capt. Frank Martin.

The cause of the fast-moving blaze remained under investigation last night, Martin said.

Nobody was injured in the fire but two pets, a dog and a bird, perished in the blaze, firefighters said.

Daniel Rivera, an at-large city councilor and mayoral candidate, called for an emergency review of the fire hydrants across the city. In light of the devastating fire, Rivera said every hydrant in the city should be tested to see if it works adequately or requires repair.

In an email, Rivera asked City Council President Frank Moran to place an emergency item on tomorrow night’s city council agenda. Fire Chief Jack Bergeron along with water department officials will be asked to attend, he said.

“This should be a no-brainer for us to get that going, to figure out what’s working and what isn’t ... There is no reason this should be a last-minute type of dance,” Rivera said.

Moran said the meeting rules will be suspended and the hydrant issue will be called as an emergency item tomorrow night.

“We know we have issues with water pressure in this city,” he said, recalling a Park Street fire several years ago that destroyed a building. There, a hydrant problem was also an issue.

“This is something we need to test. We need to a do a better job testing these hydrants. It will be good to hear from Chief Bergeron and see what we can do to help,” Moran said.

When firefighters arrived on Hancock Street Saturday, the blaze was well underway, with flames coming out of the middle of a hole that burned in the roof of 112 Hancock St., said Deputy Fire Chief John Marsh.

Firefighters quickly encountered water problems and the blaze jumped to the adjacent homes, which were an arms’ length away from each other.

The Red Cross is working with three families affected by the fire — 7 adults and 2 children. Firefighters said the families were staying temporarily in area hotels.

A city non-profit activism group, Heal Lawrence, was trying to contact the fire victims yesterday and provide necessary help. Heal Lawrence volunteers will create lists of what the families need and post on their website, heallawrence.org. Anyone willing to help the families can also email the group at heallawrence@aol.com, said volunteer Wayne Hayes.

“We hope to post their clothing sizes and we will list furniture and whatever they need,” Hayes said.


Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.