Industrial fire – explosions in Lowell

I attended a meeting of police, bar owners, and the Lowell Downtown Neighborhood Association at city hall tonight, and as I left the meeting I was chatting with Fire Chief Edward Pitta about a couple things. I told him “well, I’d better get going before I miss an actual fire or something.”

I started walking back toward my office and made it to Market and Dutton streets before I noticed what’s pictured below in the sky head of me.

I tell this story because of the ridiculous coincidence, not because I think it’s funny.

I would soon learn that firefighters were on their way to Canada Street, where Deputy Chief John Mulligan told me crews arrived to find a corrugated metal building and several shipping containers fully engulged in fire.

“It was fully engulged when we arrived,” Mulligan told me. “We couldn’t get within 20 feet.”

Reader Paul Sweeney emailed me the photo above that he took from the nearby bridge on Lincoln Street.

The corrugated metal building and storage containers were used as a shop by Tommy Tree, a family business based on Manchester Street that trims trees, digs foundations, and does other odd jobs around the area. Continue reading

Big fire and a drunken bus driver?

The day shift in this joint was busy today.

I didn’t know until I got into the office that there was a five-alarm fire in Ayer today. My co-worker Sarah Favot has a solid story on that here, and our photo staff put together a slideshow using photos from the public and our staff.

I woke up this morning to an email from Tyngsboro Deputy Police Chief Rich Burrows, announcing that a school bus driver was arrested yesterday and charged with being drunk as he drove a bus. You can download and the press release by clicking that link.

Burrows said Police were called to Tyngsboro Road at Westford Road at 2:47 p.m., and arrived to find a small yellow school bus that had rear-ended a minivan.

Burrows said officers learned the school bus had been tailgating the minivan, and struck the minivan from behind when the minivan stopped at a red light.

There were two adult bus monitors and four students on the school bus, and the minivan, which was also a school vehicle, was carrying four students as well. No one was hurt.

The driver of the bus, Erik Paulik, 37, of Manchester, N.H., was given a field sobriety test and then charged with operating under the influence of liquor, child endangerment while operating under the influence, and failure to slow while approaching an intersection. Continue reading

Smokey fire in Lowell

Lowell Firefighters got called to 33 Bolt Street tonight at 10:58 p.m., when someone called 911 to report a structure fire.

The first crew on scene reported smoke showing, and the race was on.

The large white house at 33 Bolt Street was vacant, and surrounded by industrial properties.

There was a lot of smoke, but the only bit of visible flame was on the right side of the house, and it was quickly taken care of by the gentleman pictured below. Continue reading

Protect the exposure

The crew of the Tewksbury Fire Department’s Engine 3 was sent to 1005 Livingston Street today at 2:13 p.m., for a report of a barn fire.

Lt. Dave Carney and firefighters Robert Little and Oscar Forero arrived to find the barn fully engulfed.

Just 25 to 30 feet away from the burning barn were new condominiums. The vinal siding on those condos was already melted from the heat of the flames.

So, knowing they had a limited amount of water in their engine, where did Carney, Little and Forero aim their hoses?

At the condos, and the move drew praise from a superior officer who said a thermal imaging camera would later show the condos were about to catch fire when Engine 3 arrived and intervened. The barn was a lost cost anyway since it was already fully engulfed.

“It was a good save by Engine 3,” said Capt. Jim Bruce. “When you see that kind of fire your first idea is to put water on the barn, but training says you only have so much water, and if they didn’t immediately put water on the condos they would have caught fire.” Continue reading

Weird, rainy Sunday

I’m listening closely to see if Lowell Police make any arrests in connection with this morning’s stabbing, but otherwise I have no major incidents to report. Messy weather has a tendency to keep a bit of a lid on crime.

In Tyngsboro, police have closed part of Lakeview Avenue since a tree limb brought down a power line. National Grid is reporting on its website that 287 buildings in Tyngsboro are without power.

Not sure, but the falling branch may have been caused by the heavy rains that have the National Weather Service website announcing that we’re in a moderate to severe drought, and currently under a flood watch.

I bet this particular set of circumstances doesn’t arise all that often.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Benjamin Sipprell tells me the heavy rains could cause flooding in urban areas and poor drainage areas, since 2 or 3 inches of rain could fall in a fairly short amount of time. Drivers should watch out on the morning commute. Continue reading

Saturday night trash fire

This wouldn’t be news if it hadn’t happened behind my office and made for a good video, but here’s some footage of Lowell Firefighter Mike Dillon and Lt. Kevin McCauley knocking down a fire in a trash container at Suffolk and Fletcher streets tonight about 11:30 p.m.

No word on what caused this. Officer Luis Rios spotted it and called firefighters to the scene. Rios was talking to neighbors when I left. Fires in trash containers don’t exactly start due to natural causes, though.

Forty-three seconds or four minutes

I was off work yesterday when I heard about a three-alarm fire at 19-21 Willow Street in Lowell. Minutes later, as the blaze became a five-alarm fire, I could see and smell the smoke even though I live a mile away on Bridge Street.

It was a tough day to be off work.

Tonight, as soon as I started my shift, I started helping my esteemed colleague Jennifer Myers track down rumors that Engine 4, stationed at 198 High Street, near the fire, was out of service when the blaze began.

The rumors were true.

Here’s a photo taken by Kelsie Lei, of Lowell, sent via Facebook.

Fire Chief Edward Pitta confirmed tonight for Ms. Myers that both Engine 4, which is stationed two-tenths of a mile from the fire scene, and Ladder 3, which is stationed downtown, were out of service when the fire began. Continue reading