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I-Team Uncovers Cause Of Cohasset House Fire Kept Secret For Two Years

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve
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WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
Joe Shortsleeve is chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News weekdays a...
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COHASSET (CBS) – Still haunted by the night her home caught on fire, Laura O’Grady opened the door of the small barn in her back yard to show us stacks of partially charred items salvaged from the wreckage. “This is what’s left of a whole house,” she said brushing the soot off a framed photo of her children.

The fire broke out two years ago. The youngest of her three children was in the family room when the cable box exploded. “She started screaming MOM! MOM!,” Laura recalled.

Having lost her own mother in a fire when she was just a child, Laura and her husband were grateful no one was hurt, but the house was a total loss and rebuilding it has crushed them financially. “We lost a lot of money, a lot of money, all our savings, everything went into this house,” she said.

So what started the fire? For two years, the family had no concrete answers. Now the I-Team has confirmed the Cohasset Fire Department probably caused the fire. The O’Grady’s were stunned when we told them what we had learned. “I thought I was going to pass out,” Laura said.

The I-Team has learned that a captain with the Cohasset Fire Department was operating a backhoe that night, digging out hydrants on the street when he accidentally backed into the utility pole. The force of the impact knocked loose what’s called the neutral ground. According to Arlington master electrician Ken Sparrow, that’s a recipe for disaster. “In relation to the electrical system, it’s the most important thing and it’s very dangerous if it’s disconnected,” he said.

The O’Grady’s home insurance company recently filed a suit against the town. The lawsuit states that the town: “Negligently performed said snow removal duties and as a result directly and proximately cause the plaintiff’s damages.”

The O’Gradys didn’t know anything about the fire department’s role until the I-Team told them. “To me it’s like a cop hitting somebody on a road and driving away,” he said.

The Cohasset Fire Department refused to speak with the I-Team. In a written statement, the town manager said: “Because the matter is currently in litigation, fire department and town officials can make no further comment at this time.”

Scott O’Grady believes if the fire department had told them about hitting the pole, he might have reacted differently when the lights flickered in the house a few hours before the fire. “I might have wondered if there’s something wrong with the electricity. We wouldn’t have had to lose our house,” he said.

The O’Grady’s haven’t decided if they’ll take legal action above and beyond the suit filed by their insurance company. Right now they say they just want to focus on rebuilding their lives.

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