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.