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Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey, Lowell Fire Chief Phil Charron, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Lowell Police Superintendent Kelly Richardson have confirmed that the investigation into the fatal fire that occurred on February 10 at a residential building located at 98 Westford Street in Lowell remains active and open at this time. Investigators on scene are currently working towards gaining safe access to the damaged area.
Shortly after 3:13 a.m., Lowell Police and Fire responded to Westford Street for a 3-alarm fire that extended to two neighboring structures. The fire resulted in the death of a 77-year-old man and resident of the building. Three additional victims, two women and one man, were transported to Boston hospitals with serious injuries. Over 25 residents have also been displaced at this time.
Based on the preliminary investigation Lowell Police were first to arrive on scene. Upon arrival Lowell Police officers were met with heavy smoke and flames coming from the building. While multiple people were outside of the building, there were still several people inside. Officer Walter Varey was the first officer to arrive on scene and, upon entering the building, was immediately met by heavy smoke. Officer Varey could hear screaming from the second floor and rushed upstairs. Forced to crawl because of the suffocating smoke, Officer Varey called out and located an adult male and female along with their child. Officer Varey carried the child downstairs to safety and returned to the second floor where the heavy smoke was matched with intense heat. Although he was only able to see about six inches ahead, Officer Varey was able to assist both adults out of the building before being overcome by smoke and having to be assisted out by Officers Andres Bolivar and Matthew Trani.
Outside of the building, Officers Leang Chhor and Joshua Delisle observed an adult female holding a baby in a second floor window emanating smoke. The officers told the female to drop the baby to them, which she did, and were able to catch the baby safely. The female then jumped from the window and was caught safely by Officer Chhor and Officer Warren Greenhalgh. Lowell Fire Department personnel arrived and were able to continue evacuation of the building.
“First and foremost I would like to convey my condolences to the victims of this tragic event,” said Lowell Police Superintendent Raymond Kelly Richardson. “I would also like to commend Lowell Police Officers Walter Varey, Leang Chhor, Joshua Delisle, and Warren Greenhalgh for their quick response to this fire,” Richardson continued. “These officers placed themselves in harm’s way in attempt to save as many people as they could. I am relieved that the officers were not seriously injured; this could have been much more of a tragedy. They put their lives on the line as they continued to enter the building. I am personally proud of the officers’ actions, which are in line with who our members are and the risks that they will take to ensure lives are saved. We are lucky to have them and many like them as members of our PD.” Superintendent Richardson further recognized the Lowell Fire Department for their hard work at the fire under very difficult conditions.
“Firefighters from various units of the Lowell Fire Department arrived to find a very heavy fire condition in the rear of the fire building. This necessitated numerous occupant rescues over ground and aerial ladders on both the Westford Street and Royal Street sides of the fire building. Fire department members worked hard in very cold weather conditions to, not only save lives, but also keep fire from extending beyond the fire building and it’s adjacent exposures. I commend the efforts of our firefighters and the department’s thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this terrible incident,” continued Chief Charron.
“Today’s fire is a tragedy for the victims, their friends and family and all those who have been displaced during a time when many in our communities are already struggling. I am grateful for the brave and quick actions of the members of the Lowell Police and Fire departments who responded this morning and showed great courage in acting, no doubt, to save the lives of multiple residents,” said District Attorney Ryan.
Lowell Police and Fire were also able to assist in safely evacuating nearby buildings. Numerous displaced residents were aided by neighbors who were gracious enough to allow the displaced to stay warm in their residence until the arrival of the American Red Cross and the Lowell Regional Transit Authority.
The fire is being jointly investigated by the Lowell Fire and Police Departments and State Police assigned to both the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Office of the Middlesex District Attorney.