Fire in Billerica

It sounds like Billerica Fire did some nice work on a fire at 34 Elsie Ave., this afternoon.
Police and fire got the call about 5:57 p.m.
Police were on scene at 5:59 p.m., and reported heavy smoke showing and everyone out of the home.
Fire got to the scene two minutes later at 6:01 p.m., and reported smoke and fire showing.
I started driving that way since fire showing on arrival often means a pretty bad fire is underway, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear a Deputy Chief radio in at 6:06 p.m., to report the main body of the fire was knocked down.
Crews are still checking for extension and overhauling, but it sounds like this one is well in hand.
I’ll seek some more details once crews are all back in their stations. Police radio broadcasts indicated the fire started in the kitchen.
While typing this, I just heard the call “fire is out” here at 6:23 p.m.


Rescue and a Fire

Police and firefighters pulled an apparently suicidal man out of the Eastern Canal along Bridge Street this afternoon about 3:30 p.m.
He was taken to the hospital for an evaluation, so I don’t think we’ll be able to identify him, but Jon Hill got some incredible photos of the rescue and the man being pulled from the water.
Stay tuned for that in tomorrow’s paper.
Here at 5:35 p.m., fire got a call to 341 Lakeview Ave., and struck a first alarm on what ended up being a fire on a stove. It was just called under control at 5:41, though, so apparently nothing too big.

Death Investigation

Police had to call for help from the fire department to get into a professional building at 134 Middle St., tonight about 8 p.m., and as soon as officers got inside it sounded like they found something bad.
“We’re going to need a boss here,” said Officer Caz Czarnionka, as a woman’s screams could be heard in the background. It was 8:09 p.m.
A street supervisor and Capt. Kelly Richardson both went to the scene, and within minutes detectives were called in.
Detective Capt. Jack Webb and Detective Lt. Dan Laroque were at the scene before too long, and a full-blown investigation appeared to be underway.
Here is a photo of officers working inside the second-floor office. Most activity was around where Detective Alexander is standing in a blue shirt on the left of the photo in the back room.


Before anyone panics, multiple sources, and most importantly Superintendent Lavallee have all told me this is NOT a homicide. Beyond that, no one can comment.
The deceased was an unidentified male.
Police will continue to investigate until they’re positive this was not a homicide, but I’m writing about it anyway due to location and the commotion it caused. An investigation like this is standard procedure for any death where the cause is not witnessed.
The building at Middle and Palmer streets, which houses Cafe Paradiso on the first floor, is home to offices for doctors, lawyers and at least one engineering firm on the upper floors.
No one working in the area or passing by had heard or seen anything.

Quiet Weekend – Minus that one Explosion

It’s been a very quiet Saturday and Sunday night, but I just ran out to Pawtucket and Fletcher streets to check out an accident.
It didn’t look like the accident was anything deadly, but I heard from police at the scene that a utility pole fire had led to a heck of an explosion a little earlier in the night when a pole with three transformers on it caught fire on Pawtucket between Merrimack Street and University Avenue.
I guess all three of them burst and threw of a bunch of sparks.
The power outage that resulted seems pretty localized. The light is out at Pawtucket and University, and the houses around that area are out, but that appears to be just about it.
National Grid’s website says they’ve got 84 customers currently without power in Lowell.

Quiet Night

Not a ton of crime news to reporter here in Greater Lowell tonight, but I hate to go a night without an update, so I’ll post this Associated Press story that is sure to generate some headlines over the next few days.
Associated Press Writers

MANCHESTER, Ky. (AP) — A U.S. Census worker found hanged from a tree near a Kentucky cemetery had the word “fed” scrawled on his chest, a law enforcement official said Wednesday, and the FBI is investigating whether he was a victim of anti-government sentiment.
The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, did not say what type of instrument was used to write the word on the chest of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher. He was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky.
The Census Bureau has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, pending the outcome of the investigation. An autopsy report is pending.
Investigators have said little about the case. FBI spokesman David Beyer said the bureau is assisting state police and declined to confirm or discuss any details about the crime scene.
“Our job is to determine if there was foul play involved — and that’s part of the investigation — and if there was foul play involved, whether that is related to his employment as a Census worker,” said Beyer.
Attacking a federal worker during or because of his federal job is a federal crime.
Sparkman’s mother, Henrie Sparkman of Inverness, Fla., told The Associated Press her son was an Eagle scout who moved to the area to be a local director for the Boy Scouts of America. She said he later became a substitute teacher in Laurel County and supplemented that income as a Census worker.
She said investigators have given her few details about her son’s death — they told her the body was decomposed — and haven’t yet released his body for burial. “I was told it would be better for him to be cremated,” she said.
Henrie Sparkman said her son’s death is a mystery to her.
“I have my own ideas, but I can’t say them out loud. Not at this point,” she said. “Right now, what I’m doing, I’m just waiting on the FBI to come to some conclusion.”
Gilbert Acciardo, a retired Kentucky state trooper who directs an after-school program at the elementary school where Sparkman was a frequent substitute teacher, said he had warned Sparkman to be careful when he did his Census work.
“I told him on more than one occasion, based on my years in the state police, ‘Mr. Sparkman, when you go into those counties, be careful because people are going to perceive you different than they do elsewhere,”‘ Acciardo said.
“Even though he was with the Census Bureau, sometimes people can view someone with any government agency as ‘the government.’ I just was afraid that he might meet the wrong character along the way up there,” Acciardo said.
Acciardo said he became suspicious when Sparkman didn’t show up for work at the after-school program for two days and went to police. Authorities immediately initiated an investigation, he said.
“He was such an innocent person,” Acciardo said. “I hate to say that he was naive, but he saw the world as all good, and there’s a lot of bad in the world.”
Lucindia Scurry-Johnson, assistant director of the Census Bureau’s southern office in Charlotte, N.C., said law enforcement officers have told the agency the matter is “an apparent homicide” but nothing else.
Census employees were told Sparkman’s truck was found nearby, and a computer he was using for work was found inside it, she said. He worked part-time for the Census, usually conducting interviews once or twice a month.
Sparkman has worked for the Census since 2003, spanning five counties in the surrounding area. Much of his recent work had been in Clay County, officials said.
Door-to-door operations have been suspended in Clay County pending a resolution of the investigation, Scurry-Johnson said.
The Census Bureau has yet to begin door-to-door canvassing for the 2010 head count, but it has thousands of field workers doing smaller surveys on various demographic topics on behalf of federal agencies. Next year, the Census Bureau will dispatch up to 1.2 million temporary employees to locate hard-to-find residents.
The Census Bureau is overseen by the Commerce Department.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our co-worker,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with William Sparkman’s son, other family and friends.”
Locke called him “a shining example of the hardworking men and women employed by the Census Bureau.”
Appalachia scholar Roy Silver, a New York City native now living in Harlan County, Ky., said he doesn’t sense an outpouring of anti-government sentiment in the region as has been exhibited in town hall meetings in other parts of the country.
“I don’t think distrust of government is any more or less here than anywhere else in the country,” said Silver, a sociology professor at Southeast Community College.
The most deadly attack on federal workers came in 1995 when the federal building in Oklahoma City was devastated by a truck bomb, killing 168 and injuring more than 680. Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for the bombing, carried literature by modern, ultra-right-wing anti-government authors.
A private group called PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, tracks violence against employees who enforce environmental regulations, but the group’s executive director, Jeff Ruch, said it’s hard to know about all of the cases because some agencies don’t share data on instances of violence against employees.
From 1996 to 2006, according to the group’s most recent data, violent incidents against federal Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service workers soared from 55 to 290.
Ruch said that after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, “we kept getting reports from employees that attacks and intimidation against federal employees had not diminished, and that’s why we’ve been tracking them.”
“Even as illustrated in town hall meetings today, there is a distinct hostility in a large segment of the population toward people who work for their government,” Ruch said.
Barrett reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Roger Alford in Frankfort, Ky., Hope Yen in Washington and Dylan T. Lovan in Louisville contributed to this report.

Dominos Robbed

Police are looking for a light-skinned Hispanic male with short hair, about 5’7, 140 pounds, who put a red bandana over his face and robbed Dominos on Bridge and 10th streets at gunpoint about 9:10 p.m.
He wore a gray sweatshirt with no logo over a long white T-shirt, blue jeans and black sneakers. He fled on foot down West 10th Street.
No one was hurt.
Anyone with information is asked to call Lowell police at (978) 937-3200 or Crimestoppers at (978) 459-TIPS (8477). Callers may remain anonymous, but can receive up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.