Firefighters Blame Haverhill Mayor After Woman Dies In Fire

HAVERHILL (CBS) – An elderly woman is dead and seven others are left homeless after fire early Wednesday morning on Washington Street in Haverhill. Now the firefighters union says Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini is to blame.

The fire union says just ten days ago Mayor James Fiorentini reduced the number of men on Haverhill’s rescue truck from three to one. They say when that truck got to the fire Tuesday night, the one firefighter on the truck had to wait for backup before going into the burning building.

Edward Kelly is president of the Professional Firefighters Union of Massachusetts. He says, “We feel very strongly that that woman would have survived last night had this rescue truck been adequately staffed.”

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports

The Police Chief, speaking for Mayor James Fiorentini, says there were other trucks and men on scene who could have helped.

“None of our guys go in there by themselves that’s dangerous. So they had to wait for other crews to come here,” says Greg Roberts, President of the Haverhill Firefighters Union.

The union says everyone has a task and by waiting, precious moments were lost, likely causing 84-year-old Phyllis Lamot’s death.

Haverhill firefighter Mike Sullivan says they would’ve entered the burning building right away, “It would have been immediate. As soon as the rescue got here two guys could’ve go in and searched for that woman.”

Neighbor Angel Vasquez shot video of the blaze right when it started on his camera.

Vasquez says, “I saw that they got there and they were waiting quite a while, and I was asking myself why was nothing being done.”

One firefighter, Todd Guertin went as far as calling the mayor a murderer. He’s quoted in the Eagle Tribune as saying:

“The mayor should be charged with murder for taking the rescue truck out of service over a dispute with the union.”

He later backed away from that comment but he stood by his claim that the mayor’s decision caused the victim’s death.

Union President Greg Roberts says by keeping the rescue truck in service with only one firefighter on board is a game of smoke and mirrors.

“That truck is basically rendered ineffective with one person it’s a rolling toolbox,” says Roberts. “It gives the perception to the public who sees that rescue truck driving around that it’s in service.”

Calls to the mayor’s office were not returned.

Lamot’s daughter and son-in-law were hurt in the fire but relatives say they are alert and doing OK. No one else in the triple-decker was injured.

WBZ-TV’s Diana Perez contributed to this report.

  • Ursual nonunioun

    Comments like that make it easy for people to hate unions. They think that it’s appropiate to call the mayor a murderer because he cut their budget…….yikes

  • 1stackmack

    is this your typical union strong arm tactics,blame someone else cause no one could save a woman.all towns are struggling with budget cuts.if the unions would let up some of there demands,maybe there would be a fully staffed department.just saying.and edward kelly is just a mouth piece,he doesn’t know about reality.

  • matt

    why couldnt the guy with the camera help?

    • Peanut7

      Yes I’m sure you would have barreled into a raging fire without protective equipment and O2 tank. Please. No intelligent human would, nor would a firefighter go in without assist.

    • jim

      he was recording the ineptness of the HFD

  • JHO

    He’s not equiped nor trained. I’m in a construction union, but feel that public sector unions should not be allowed. Letting people die to make a point should be the criime. From what I’ve read, there were enough firefighters there to start battling the blaze. Randolph FD and PD did the same crap, the BK 1/4 mile from the station was robbed 3 times in a year, and a fire killed 2, 1/2 mile from the station, because of a contract. This crown with the quote should never be called a HERO.

    • firemanmark

      Construction Unions shouldn’t be allowed to strong-arm communities when they build municipal buildings either.Why should I pay a “laborer” $34 an hour for a job that’s worth $12.50 tops! You bloggers have all the answers but have absolutely NO clue as to what is involved when you show up with a house fully involved and report of people trapped.I’ve seen the construction “unions” at work.Four hours work for eight hours pay.You’re just another lunkhead who didn’t pass the civil service exam.

  • Big-D

    The big picture issue here is that budget cuts in public safety should NEVER HAPPEN. When it comes to protecting the safety of the public, there should never be a question of choosing between a human life and money. Unfortunately, this is what is wrong with our society. We have singular athletes and entertainers who contribute jack squat to this world making MILLIONS of dollars a year, which is absolutely ludacris. Some athletes make more in one year than some towns budgets on public safety! Does anyone else see something terribly wrong with this picture??

  • Mike

    Pretty shameless for the union to use the tragic death of this woman to boost their own cause. It’s impossible to know if this tragedy could have been avoided. People in cities with fully staffed depts sometimes don’t make it out of a fire incident. Should we “blame” the firefighters? Of course not, this is a tragedy plain and simple. Shame on the fire dept.

    • alan

      they are not boosting their cause . they don’t want more money they want enough men to do the job . as for the other firemen on the scene , i will try to explain it so you will be able to understand . each fireman is a menber of a team depending on which truck he arrives on . each team has a specific jod . all the jobs must be done in conjunction with all the other jobs . you have to have hose crews attack the fire so it does not spread as quickly as it would if left must have a ventalization crew to let out heat and gasses which could explode , killing everyone. and you have to have a search team to find victiums. all must be done at the same time . if you steal from one to give to the others jobs don’t get done correctly and people can die . lots of jobs can be fudged here and their but when running fire crews there is no do it correctly ro you or civilians get hurt or die . one other thing , the only experts on a fire scene are firefighters.. , politiicians , construction workers , school teachers , no one has a clue but the ones who are trained .

  • Peanut7

    It’s interesting. The public wants help but supports the budget cuts that affect that help. One person to respond? You are on your own to save yourself with that scenario. It isn’t feasible.

  • formerjake

    If there is blame for having a one man rescue company it rests with the fire chief and the union for allowing them to run like that. The union is correct that it is unsafe to have one guy show up alone at a fire. Well why did you allow your fellow firefighter to run like that when you knew it was unsafe. The chief should have put the rescue out of service and put the extra man on an engine company. I hardly doubt the mayor tells the chief how to deploy his resources. The mayor cut the budget forcing the short staffing, not where to shift the resources.

  • Fortheloveoftheignorant

    Just a thought…but maybe the “union-bashers” out there should do a little research other than readin this one article and assuming you know the ins and outs of what is going on! Do any of you know how big the City of Haverhill actually is? Do you know that it is surrounded by a major highyway and responds to MANY highway accidents? Do you know the population of the city? Well let me ask you this question…..if you had all the answers to my previous questions, would YOU feel confident that these men or should I say the ONE man on the Rescue truck could save you and or your family? Just a bit more info for the ignorant….the fire last night is covered by one engine, and the one man Rescue comes from another station. So if the one man on Rescue gets to the scene first no matter what part of the city’s 35.6 sqaure mile radius it’s in….that one man is suppose to go into a burning building alone until the other trucks get there? There’s thought involved in every action they take in every situation, whether it be a medical call, a car accident or a fire. They all have a specific duty when responding and acting at the said scenes. Such as a “PLAN”…..does any of this make sense to you? I’m not a firefighter, and I don not live in the city. But I know many of the facts. Would any of you union bashers go without a raise for 6 years without a raise? Put your life on the line every day, and feel that you don’t deserve a raise? I GUARANTEE that without overtime, you all take home a salary that is larger than theirs. Gas is almost $4/gallon, but no raise in 6 years? But they still show up to work, and fight the fight for YOU!!!!!!!!!

    • jim


    • One Man Show

      Sure glad to hear that there is only ONE man protecting 35.6 square miles of Haverhill.

  • kshygirlie

    I know this family personnally and I have to say that the story the family is getting is that no one went in after the grandmother. The father came running out, then the mother, who repeatedly stated to please save the grandmother (her mother). On top of that a neighbor kept repeatedly telling them she was in there still only for an Officer of Haverhill to turn around and tell him to shut the F-Up or he would be arrested…what is that. It is wrong that such a cut was made and from this came such a tradegy… I am sorry but I have to agree with the one man rescue team and that driving around a Rescue truck that is not equipped with the right amount of people in order to provide such service it unethical. I understand what it is to be in community service for i am a nurse. I work short all the time but when it comes to fires and they are short to begin with I am sure everyone was not just standing around twindling their thumbs… I hope the family does turn around and SUE SUE SUE!! On top of that SUE the Police Departpartment as well… Cause I am sorry there is a right way and a wrong way to use authority and this officer cleary used his authority improperly..

  • Jim Donovan

    Only a union would bargain over a life. Bet if the person who is supposed to be fire fighter, if it was their son/ the building, would have went in.
    Also Police go to calls all the time by them selves.

    • Peanut7

      What a ridiculous statement…you can’t even begin to compare those scenarios.

  • dan

    i am not from haverhill but the town i am from they complain about understaffing. when i walk past my towns fire house in the summer they are all out there in lounge chairs sunning themselves.the mayor at that time used to see this. it does not give a good example for the crew

    • firemanmark

      Fire and Police Departments respond when there is an incident It’s like insurance.You don’t think to much about it until you need it.NFPA standards call for a MINIMUM of 3-4 firefighters on an engine company and 4-5 on a truck company.If all you monday morning quarterbacks have the stones then I suggest the next time you see a structure on fire,please,by all means,go dashing in! Ask the big “union construction worker” if he would be willing to work for less money so more guys could work or the job would cost less for the people paying.Wrong!If he says otherwise he’s F.O.S!

  • blackbear1

    I watched this story on the news last nite by Diana. Very tragic, but according to the posting of fortheloveoftheignorant, only one engine responds to this fire. Really, to a structure fire, only one engine truck and no ladder truck?? Was there a call for mutual aid??

  • FireGuyFrank

    The rescue truck rolls from the Wwater Street station — along with Engine 3 and Ladder 1. There is no reason to believe that a team could not have been put together to make entry. Moreover, we do not know the cause of death yet. It is possible the victim was dead before the first units arrived on scene.

    As for staffing levels — how many working fires occur in Haverhill? If it is one a year, how many firefighters need to be standing by?

    Before you say, “What about medical calls?” I will tell you that Haverhill sends an engine company on every medical call, and they leave as soon as the paramedics arrive. If the medics beat them to the scene, the engine never stops and goes back to the station.

    Revenue is down. There has to be cuts on every budget item. It stinks, but it’s life.

    • dan

      fireguyfrank..go back and look at dan posting .march 8 2012 and give me a comment

      • dan

        well i guess fireguyfrank does not have a comeback for that!!!

    • petem

      Perfectly reasoned rightwing argument Frank. Revenues are down, budgets have to be cut so just live withe fact that a few grandmothers or baby’s or families are gonna have to suffer or die.
      That’s what this country was built on right? Hey we have to give tax breaks to the corporate D-bags to get them to locate in our city and if that means public safety has to be cut o well…
      You make me sick…

      • gramps

        petem, you seem to be ‘getting sick’ on a regular basis?

        Stop watching MSNBC…&

        You’ll be fine.


    • formerjake

      Well said

  • blackbear1

    FireGuyFrank. Good knowledgeable, informative post. Thanks..

  • fred

    This is the same Haverhill fire department that had 29 or so members cheat on their EMT training test. I think much of this stems from the resentment towards the Mayor over the disciplinary actions and loss of pay that were taken. They should have cleaned house at that point. How can you trust these men who got there certificates without the training. Now they are concerned with public safety. Do they have to take mandatory drug tests? People in the private sector who operate vehicles over a certain weight and operate hydraulic equipment are required by federal law to have random drug testing. Why does the public sector seem to get a waiver from these rules? Oh yeah, the unions control the politicians – except the mayor of Haverhill. It is pretty disgusting that they are using this poor woman’s death for political reasons.

    • jim


      • dan


  • jackbeanstock

    I have to disagree with you fred,First and foremost the priority is the publics safety not with who is mad one another,Second the union is not happy with the Mayor oh well thats Life,I am sure they will deal with him at the table at some point in time.Third:Why is the Mayor stripping fire trucks to one person,Common pratice in haverhill is to have 3 Personal on that Rescue truck,The Mayor may have a perfectly good reason why he put one person on that truck.As a Citizen,voter,and most of all a Taxpayer,I would love hear his reasons.

    • dan


  • Victim: Deadly Haverhill Fire ‘Wasn’t Mayor’s Fault’ « CBS Boston

    […] union met with the city’s mayor Thursday afternoon, a day after a firefighter said the mayor should be charged with murder for department cuts that he claimed led to the death of an elderly […]

  • Baruch

    politicians and others are busy arguing about unions, apparently people are dying. So, what exactly are the priorities for the people of Haverhill, for the people of the US? When money is considered more important than life, something is terribly wrong.

  • firemanmark

    Hey folks,check out the agreement that the Mayor and Union worked out.The Rescue will be in service as of tonight at no additional cost to the city.

    • gramps

      That news should put ‘petem’ on the ‘Critical List’!


      • gramps

        As soon as you start using the ‘Upper Case’…..


      • dan

        gramps you do not have to sign your name, we see it

  • dan

    GRAMPS..gramps..upper lower…ok by you!!!!

  • dan

    and do not have to have the same old come back..upper case low case …it is getting very old…

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