The smoke detector batteries were dead.

A fire in a home at 3 Cardington Avenue in Billerica, just 20-yards from Engine 3’s headquarters at 832 Boston Road, got a head start on firefighters tonight because despite the home’s location, the batteries in its smoke alarms were dead, according to a deputy chief.

The fire started in a second-floor bedroom for a reason that remains under investigation. Firefighters were not aware of it until a resident called 911 at 7:08 p.m., according to Deputy Fire Chief Tom Ferraro.

Once crews were notified, Engine 3 drove all of about 50 yards to the scene and got a report that a woman was still inside on the second floor. They asked for a second-alarm, and Firefighters John Duggan, Paul Dunton, Lt. Matthew Battcock and police Officer Dan Duggan all ran into the home.

Dan Duggan told me they found the woman on the first floor and helped her walk out of the home on her own. She was not hurt, and Ferraro said no firefighters were injured either.

Crews from Burlington, Bedford and Chelmsford headed to Billerica on the second alarm, and by the time I arrived at the scene about 7:45 p.m., the fire appeared to be under control, with just some smoke still coming from the second-floor.

Ferraro said crews were able to contain the fire damage to the second-floor, but that there was water damage throughout the first floor. He didn’t identify the residents and wasn’t sure how many folks were displaced. Police said the residents were planning to stay with friends and family tonight.

Ferraro said residents reported smelling smoke before discovering the fire. “We cannot emphasize enough how much working smoke detectors, one, would have alerted the residents more rapidly, and two, would have prevented damage,” Ferraro said.

I didn’t lead with the smoke alarm batteries being dead to suggest the residents are at fault. I spoke briefly to a female resident who seemed very nice and was obviously very upset. I hope she’s doing well tonight. “I don’t even know what to do right now,” she said.

It’s not hard to forget about batteries in an item you might only need once in your life, so before anyone judges these residents, maybe you should go check your own smoke alarms.

It’s easy to forget, but you just got reminded.


Bathrooms: Not actually that hard to find.

It was not a good weekend in downtown Lowell for fellas who couldn’t keep their zipper up.

Officers working “downtown disorder details,” extra patrols aimed at getting a grip on assaults and disorder downtown during the peak business hours for bars, ended up charging five different guys with indecent exposure over the course of just four hours early Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Here is where I’ll provide you with the list of folks who are accused of needing more potty training, and tell you the story of another guy who walked down Middle Street with his penis exposed even though a cop was right behind him.

Robert Latour, 33, of 9 Puffer Avenue in Lowell kicked things off early Saturday morning about 1:20 a.m., when he allegedly urinated within sight of an officer near the intersection of Merrimack and John Streets. Not exactly a secluded location to convene a meeting with nature.

It took about 25 minutes before Lowell Police allegedly spotted someone else.

Jeffrey Bachelder, 34, of 26 Otsego Avenue, in Lowell, was arrested and accused of urinating on a church. He was taken into custody at 1:46 a.m., after an officer allegedly saw him urinate on a door at St. Joseph the Worker Shrine on Lee Street.

The next arrest didn’t come until early Sunday morning, when Michael Conderman, 20, of Rochester, N.H., allegedly walked down Middle Street with his penis exposed. Police say three girls were walking in front of Conderman, and one of them turned around and noticed the exposure at 12:04 a.m.

A police officer was walking unnoticed behind Conderman at the time. That turned out well.

In addition to an indecent exposure charge, Conderman was also booked for lewd and lascivious behavior and carrying a false liquor id.

He “admitted to having a fake ID that he intended to use at one of the bars downtown,” said Capt. Kelly Richardson.

That’s when history started repeating itself.

It was 12:50 a.m. when police say Steven Leone, 24, of 15 Middlesex Drive, Littleton, took a leak within sight of Capt. Jack Webb, who happened to be in command of the entire police effort downtown. Leone was arrested at 65 Merrimack Street, which is maybe 20 or 30 yards from the intersection with John Street.

The last guy to make the list was Richard Smith, 26, of 98 Nancy Avenue in Dracut. Smith was allegedly seen urinating in a parking lot off Lee Street at 1:22 a.m.

I guess the good news is that no one was hurt.

If this trend continues, I’m going to start requesting mugshots of those booked for doing this.

Theary Chan arrested again in Lowell

I haven’t been able to find out the details of why, but the man accused of drunken driving in connection with the death of Lowell Police Officer Patrick “PJ” Johnson is once again in police custody.

Theary Chan, 27, of 871 Middlesex St., Unit 1, was arrested early Sunday morning about 5:30 a.m., according to arrest logs. He is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and is being held.

Chan had been free on $5,000 cash bail in connection with charges he was drunk and ran a stop sign on Sept. 11, 2010, when Officer Johnson struck Chan’s car while riding his motorcycle. Johnson died of injuries suffered in the crash.

Chan has pleaded not guilty, and is awaiting trial.

Autopsy reports have shown that Johnson also had a blood alcohol content over the legal limit. Chan is now trying to get the results of his own blood tests, which showed he over the legal limit, suppressed in court. 

It appears Chan was arrested along with Chamroeun Chan, 29, and Jessica Chan, 36, both of 871 Middlesex St. Chamroeun was bailed after being charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Jessica was bailed after being charged with assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.

I didn’t hear about this until late tonight when I picked up the arrest log, so I haven’t been able to get a report on what led to these charges.

All three individuals will be arraigned Monday in Lowell District Court, so I’ve already notified my editors and our court reporter to look into this case.

UPDATE: Theary Chan was actually not the instigator here. Capt. Richardson told me today that police were called to 861 Middlesex at 4:52 a.m., after getting a call about a man screaming in a parking lot.

They arrived to find Said Labibi, 33, of 54 Willow St., shirtless in the parking lot, “highly intoxicated,” “incoherent and very uncooperative,” Capt. Richardson said. A crowd had gathered around Labibi.

Labibi ignored several attempts to get him to calm down and go inside, so officers arrested him for disturbing the peace, the captain told me. Richardson said Jessica Chan objected and tried to intervene, which got her arrested too. When Jessica was arrested, Theary and Chamroeun objected and tried to intervene, which got them arrested too, according to Richardson.

Sounds like a chain-reaction accident, except with arrests.

Richardson said there is no indication the officers who made the arrest had any idea who Theary Chan was until he was already in custody and at the booking window.

“You need to look at the time of the incident and the fact that alcohol was a mitigating factor in this incident,” Richardson said.

A judge declined to revoke Theary Chan’s $5,000 bail on the motor vehicle homicide case today, but the judge did set $1,000 cash bail on the new charges. I’m not sure if Chan was able to post that or not.

9-year-old flown to Boston with head injury from ski crash.

A 9-year-old boy was flown to Children’s Hospital in Boston tonight after he crashed into a tree on the slopes at Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford and was found unconscious by EMT’s.

Nashoba President and General Manager Al Fletcher tells me the boy’s father reached the bottom of the slope about 6 p.m., and realized his son hadn’t made it down. The father went back up the hill and found his son just as another skier reported the accident.

There are EMT’s that work for the ski area, and they, along with Westford EMT’s, were able to start treating the boy within about five minutes.

The boy, who is believed to be from Lexington, was wearing a helmet. He was initially unconscious, but then came too a bit and was in and out of consciousness as he was put on a backboard, taken off the hill and to an awaiting ambulance.

Emergency crews called for a MedFlight helicopter that landed near Robbins Road and flew the boy to Children’s Hospital in Boston. According to police radio broadcasts, the boy was off the hill and at the landing zone within a minute of the helicopter landing.

His condition was not immediately available tonight. Fletcher said he can’t identify the boy.

“We hope he’s okay and we hope him a speedy recovery,” Fletcher said.

Nashoba encourages all kids to wear helmets while skiing. I found this section on their website explaining why.

I know emergency crews like to take a lot of precautions with head injuries. Lets hope that’s all this was and that this little guy ends up being fine.

Old enough to steal a car; not old enough to drive.

This is apparently the second-installment of my blog entry from last week that I titled “kids these days.”

Lowell Police went rushing to Fort Hill Avenue tonight about 6:45 p.m., after an anonymous resident spotted five kids breaking into a Honda that was parked along the street. That Honda is pictured on the left below.

The five kids scattered as police arrived, but with not much else going on in the city about a half-dozen cruisers went to the area.

By 7 p.m., four of the kids were in custody. They were all 14- to 15-years-old, and from Lawrence.

Once those four kids were loaded in the prisoner transport wagon, the fifth kid stepped out of his hiding space nearby and turned himself in. He joined the wagon ride to Arcand Drive.

One of the kids, in his haste to get away, even crashed through the lattice gate pictured below.

At the scene, police found a Honda the kids drove to the scene. It hasn’t been reported stolen, but the ignition was popped, so police are in the process of contacting that car’s owner since it appears that it was stolen; hence the title to this entry.

The kids are facing charges of breaking and entering motor vehicle, disturbing the peace, and could face even more serious charges once police confirm the story of the vehicle they drove here from Lawrence.

If you’re looking for a lesson here, it’s that you might want to avoid Fort Hill Avenue if you’re in the business of breaking into cars.

The residents there really do watch out, and this is a darn good example of what happens when Lowellians watch out and work with police. Car breaks remain a major problem in Lowell. Despite a decline in 2010, they were up significantly the prior two years.

This is a pretty textbook way to stop them.

Fatal Crash in Chelmsford

Only about 15 minutes after I left work last night a 31-year-old Tyngsboro man travelling north on Princeton Street in Chelmsford drove into a large utility pole at the road’s interesection with Gay Street.

He died of his injuries early this morning, according to Police Chief James Murphy.

Murphy said only that man’s car was involved, and that he was alone in the car. The crash was reported at 12:25 a.m.

The large utility pole, which was unbroken by the crash, stands on the sidewalk in front of the home where Barbara Pickering has lived for 30-years.

Pickering told me the sound of the crash woke her and her husband. She was taken aback to learn the crash had been fatal. She said the driver appeared to be unconscious when firefighters removed him from the car, but that the car did not appear that badly damaged.

“That’s terrible,” she said upon hearing the news.

Pickering expressed sympathy for the man, and said she doubts he was speeding since the pole remained intact.

“If he was going any kind of speed that would be in my yard,” she said of the pole.

Pickering said it appeared the car bounced off the utility pole, because it came to rest 10 to 15 feet back from the pole. I’m pretty sure the small white marks in the street, in the picture above, are paint marks indicating where the car’s tires were when police arrived at the scene. Police often make these marks during accident reconstruction.

Chief Murphy said firefighters, responding from the fire station across the street, freed the 31-year-old from the car before a MedFlight helicopter flew him to Massachusetts General Hospital with “serious, multiple injuries.”

He was pronounced dead later in the morning.

Chief Murphy said the crash remains under investigation.

Pickering said police remained at the scene until about 3 a.m., and then returned during the day today.

The area is largely commercial but I knocked on a couple other doors of residential homes in the area, but people either didn’t answer or didn’t want to talk.

UPDATE: Chief Murphy identified the driver today as Sothea Chan, 31, of 32 Middlesex Road, Tyngsboro. It looks like Chan was only about a mile and a half from home.

Murphy also said it appears Chan wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

Explorer strikes a repair shop in Lowell.

Pictured below is the damage that was caused to the Mechanics Direct garage at 1375 Middlesex Street tonight when a Ford Explorer failed to stop at the end of Burnside Street, crossed Middlesex Street, drove through a chain fence and struck the side of the building.

Emergency crews were sent to the scene at 8:25 p.m., for a report of a car into the building. All in all not as bad as I feared it might be. A plate glass window was shattered and a support beam was cracked, but the vehicle remained outside of the building.

It looked like the driver actually pulled away from the building after the crash and parked in the parking lot. He was an older man who declined to comment. He did not appear to be injured, and wasn’t transported.

The car was towed and the garage’s owner was called to have the window boarded up. No word on charges, but the driver wasn’t in custody or anything.