EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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April 4, 2013

'My home could have been saved'

Hancock Street fire victim speaks about Saturday's fast-moving fire in Lawrence

LAWRENCE — Hancock Street fire victim Jodi Caraballo said she wanted to complain to city councilors about a lack of water pressure and faulty fire hydrants that led to the destruction of her home. But instead of attending a City Hall meeting Tuesday night, Caraballo said she was trying to find places for her three children to sleep temporarily.

“I will sleep in a car but I won’t let them do that,” said Caraballo, breaking into tears.

Caraballo, 40, purchased the three-story home at 108-110 Hancock St. 11 years ago. Last fall, she along with other neighbors watched as a “brand new” fire hydrant was installed on her street. But Saturday, after a massive fire broke out nearby at 4 p.m., the new hydrant proved pointless. As fire leapt from one adjacent house to another, fire quickly engulfed Caraballo’s home.

Firefighters said poor water pressure and non-working fire hydrants hampered their efforts. City leaders met Tuesday night to discuss ongoing problems with the city’s water system and ponder repair plans.

“It wasn’t that they weren’t doing their jobs,” Caraballo said of firefighters. “They didn’t have the tools to do their job. It (isn’t) any different than a plumber trying to do his job without any tools ... My home could have been saved if there was adequate water.”

In an emotional interview yesterday, Caraballo said it’s time for city leaders to stop talking about water and hydrants problems and aggressively address them.

“I’ve been here for 11 years and I pay my water and sewer bills ... This just isn’t about Hancock Street. How many more houses are going to go up in flames before the city decides they are going to do something about this?” she asked.

Her wedding album, children’s newborn pictures and a lock of her grandson’s hair after his first trip to the barber shop were incinerated Saturday.

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