Following a six-alarm fire last Wednesday afternoon, May 2, on John Street – where two dwellings were a complete loss – Chief Leonard Albanese warned this week for residents to be extremely careful with activities on back porches – though he said the cause last week wasn’t yet determined.
Chelsea firefighters fighting the John Street blaze on May 2 with heavy smoke.
The fire last week originated on a second-floor, back porch of 10 John St.
“We haven’t determined the official cause yet,” he said. “We know it’s not arson, and it’s accidental. I want to emphasize that porch fires are a significant threat to our community and residents need to use extreme caution with the fire load on their decks, not smoking on their decks and not cooking on decks. No one is allowed to use a grill on any floor above the ground level.”
Chief Albanese said the firefighters and mutual aid partners did a great job with the fire on a day that was extremely busy in Greater Boston, as there was a fire in Cambridge and Somerville on the same day.
The fire came in on the afternoon of May 2, and it originated on the second-floor rear porch of 10 John St., a three-story multiple wood frame dwelling. Companies arrived with heavy fire conditions on all three rear porches at 10 John St., extending into the structure with fire threatening the immediate three-story exposures to the left (6 John St.) and right (12 John St.). The end result was the total loss of both 6 and 10 John St.; along with minor damage to 12 John St.
A large three-story, six-unit building at 68-70 Clark Ave. also sustained water damage. The home at 66 Clark Ave. sustained radiant heat damage only in the rear. Also, 56 Parker St. had exterior radiant heat damage only to the rear; and 50 Parker St. had a damaged fence from fire operations.
At 6 John St., 18 residents were displaced, and at 10 John St., 12 residents were displaced. Both structures were considered a total loss by fire officials.
The Red Cross provided immediate assistance to displaced residents.
There were no reported civilian injuries.
There were three immediately reported firefighter injuries, and all were treated and released. There were multiple other injuries sustained with the extreme conditions in which this fire was fought. All firefighters were exposed to smoke and products of combustion inhalation with an estimated three to five additional injuries being evaluated after the fire.
“The members of the Chelsea Fire Department along with our mutual aid partners engaged in a major fire operation under extreme conditions, which led to the containment of the fire to the loss of two structures only,” said the chief. “Without their valiant efforts, we could have lost several other structures further devastating the effected neighborhood. This was without a doubt a great job done by all.”
He also praised 9-1-1 dispatch for coordinating all six alarms.
“Additionally, Chelsea 911 did a great job allocating resources for the six alarms and guiding them to the scene,” he said. “This is difficult on a normal day, but Somerville had a multiple alarm fire that was tying up companies in the Metro Fire region at the same time, making this task a challenge.”
The Chelsea Fire Department announced this week that they have secured a major federal grant to pay for the hiring of eight new firefighters in this year’s budget – with Chief Len Albanese saying the new recruits could hit the streets by Thanksgiving.
The Homeland Security grant provides $1.4 million of federal funding over a three-year period, covering 75 percent of the salary and benefits for two years. The third year of the grant will cover 35 percent of the share of salaries and benefits.
In the fourth year of the grant, the City would be responsible for 100 percent of the costs associated with the new hires.
Albanese said that in the end, concerns about not getting the grant due to Chelsea’s Sanctuary City status did not factor into whether the City did or did not get the grant as the application was put in last year.
Overall, the big news is that the Fire Department will go over 100 members for the first time in decades.
The grant will put the contingent up to 102 member.
“We’ve had 92 members for quite a while,” said the chief. “Prior to my arrival and when I got here and that’s a situation I assume goes back to the 1990s – post-receivership. (Last year), we added two members to get up to 94 and with the intention to add more. With the SAFER grant now in place, we can add eight new members and that brings our staffing up to 102…Having 102 is what we consider to be a really good staffing level for the Fire Department.”
He said that Revere’s contingent is at 98 and Everett – which also has a SAFER grant- is at 111.
He said adding the new members won’t eliminate overtime, but he believes it will bring it down to a reasonable number – eliminating what has been many years of controversy surrounding overspending on overtime.
“The purpose is to not just decrease overtime,” he said. “There’s always overtime in a 24/7 business…This will control overtime and put boots on the ground. It will stabilize overtime and increase staffing.”
Already, Albanese said he has identified the eight recruits from Civil Service, having been confident of getting the grant and taking early action. That will mean they get in the Station very quickly.
“We have eight recruits identified and they preparing to attend the Brookline Fire Academy on Sept. 5,” he said. “That means if all goes well, we will have these additional firefighters on the street by Thanksgiving.”
Along with this grant and another recently received, the fire department has garnered $2 million of federal funding from the 2016 DHS/FEMA programs.
At 4:38 p.m. on May 19, Chelsea Fire received a call for a house fire at 127 Shurtleff St. Upon arrival, heavy fire was showing from the 3rd floor with exposure buildings in close proximity on each side. Deputy Chief Robert Houghton transmitted the working fire and struck the second alarm. Fire quickly spread to the 3rd floor porch and cockloft area.
Major flames erupted from this fire at a home on Shurtleff Street May 19.
Firefighters mounted and aggressive attack, and a third alarm was struck for additional manpower. Searches of the building were negative with occupants self-evacuating. There were no civilian injuries. Three fire fighters were injured battling the blaze, none of which were life threatening. Overall 16 occupants were displaced and being assisted by the Red Cross.
The fire was contained to the third floor of the structure of origin. None of the exposure buildings were affected. The cause of the fire was electrical. An air conditioning unit was being energized using several extension cords.
“Residents should be aware of the dangers associated with powering air condition units and appliances with extension cords. This creates an extreme fire hazard” said Chief Len Albanese. “Overloaded extension cords are the cause of many accidental fires that can be avoided using proper fire safety precautions.”
Firefighters, as shown below, had to keep low to the ground due to the active shooter and moved in to fight the fire under heavy protection by the SWAT teams. The incident was sparked allegedly by a domestic situation between Pastrana, his wife, and a young child.
It’s no secret that, at times, the quiet of a Chelsea night can be punctuated by the sound of gunfire.
But not on Warren Avenue, usually.
The calm of the hillside neighborhood below the Soldiers’ Home broke out into chaos just before 10 p.m. on Monday night, when a misty night gave way to hundreds of police and fire personnel, and one man who allegedly initiated the response with a domestic situation, perished after a lengthy standoff and raging fire.
Kelly Pastrana, 38, of 80 Warren Ave., was found dead around 2 a.m. on Tuesday inside the home after fire crews from all over the area had extinguished the raging inferno that Pastrana allegedly started while police negotiators tried to reach out to him.
That came after he had fired on police twice with a gun while holed up in his home.
District Attorney Dan Conley and Chief Brian Kyes promises a full and fair evaluation of the incident, and Conley said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that Pastrana had died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. That seemed to indicate that police might have shot him during the exchange of gunfire between Pastrana and police on the second occasion that he allegedly fired upon them.
“The facts as we understand them strongly suggest that this was a case of domestic violence,” said Conley. “It escalated to an armed assault on the female victim, a young child, and responding police officers – two of whom, we believe, also discharged their firearms in the course of the event. After the initial domestic assaults, evidence suggests that Mr. Pastrana deliberately set a fire inside the home, where he was found dead early this morning. A short time ago, state pathologists ruled his death the result of a gunshot wound to the abdomen with thermal injuries from the fire.”
He said the case has been turned over to senior homicide prosecutors in his office. He also said that the case file would be turned over to Pastrana’s family, and then to the public.
“As with any death that involves police activity, senior homicide prosecutors from my office are leading the investigation to determine exactly what took place and whether criminal charges are warranted,” he said. “They will work with State Police detectives assigned to my office, with the assistance of specialized State Police units, the State Fire Marshal’s office, and Chelsea Police detectives. This is a standard procedural step and we have drawn no final conclusions at this early stage.”
A member of Pastrana’s family, Emanuel Santiago, of East Boston, was on the scene Tuesday.
He said Pastrana and his wife, who both lived on Warren Avenue since around 2015, moved from East Boston and were both rooted there. He said they had five children, one of whom was a star athlete at East Boston High School. He said Pastrana was a family man, and he asked for the family to be respected.
“He wasn’t a criminal or a troublemaker,” said Santiago. “He was a human being like we all are.”
Police were called to the scene around 9:18 p.m.
Just prior to that, Pastrana is alleged to have chased his wife and their youngest child out of the home. As they sought help nearby, he fired a weapon at them, but did not hit anyone.
As he proceeded back to his home, he encountered a responding officer and shot the gun at him.
That officer was originally reported to have been shot in the hand, but Chief Kyes said the officer had only cut his hand while diving out of the way of the discharged bullets.
Pastrana is then alleged to have gone into the home and fired bullets out the front window at police.
A short time later, after a huge response to the home from police in Revere, Everett, Boston, Lynn and even Salem, Pastrana came out the basement door in the back of the home and fired again on police who were trying to set up a perimeter around the home.
The neighborhood began to erupt into chaos after that.
Police went door to door and evacuated people from their homes, with many running from their homes in terror and fleeing to a nearby church until around 3 a.m.
Council President Leo Robinson, who lives on Warren Avenue, said he heard gunshots and then everything went south.
“I was at home after the Council meeting and then heard the ‘boom-boom’ of the gunshots,” he said. “A few minutes later the cops were banging on the door and telling us to leave. We had to go down the street, and a bunch of people went to the church. It was crazy.”
Things got much more problematic, however, when police began to notice smoke coming out of the home. Officers at the scene on the radio began reporting that the area was “really smoking up.”
The problem, however, was that it was too dangerous with an active shooter to allow firefighters to move in to fight the growing blaze. Soon enough, the entire house had been engulfed and flames stretched high into the air.
Once they believed that no one was alive inside due to the fire, fire crews from all over Greater Boston moved in under ‘forced protection’ of the large SWAT team presence.
Chief Len Albanese said it was a defensive fight, trying to make sure the fire didn’t spread to any other homes.
“It was too dangerous to put firefighters in the way of that,” he said. “We let the building burn unit we were quite certain no one could survive and then we moved in. It was a defensive fight, focusing on that building only and making sure it didn’t spread.”
The fire was extinguished about 2 a.m. and investigators moved in, finding Pastrana deceased inside.
Kyes said Pastrana did not have an extensive record. He had an arrest in Chelsea in 2004 for an assault, some motor vehicle violations in 2006 and an arrest in 2009 in Lynn for an assault and battery. Other than that, he wasn’t really on the police radar screen.
One of the keys to the evening for law enforcement was how the multiple agencies, including police, fire, SWAT and dispatch, worked together seamlessly.
Kyes said it was incredible the way agencies worked and cooperated to handle the incident.
Said Albanese, “Police and Fire worked well together. We’ve adapted our policy under the latest Department of Homeland Security guiltiness and it proved effective. The incredible response when as good as we could have expected.”
Carrying the fire helmet of late Firefighter Peter Kannler, Firefighter Janine Romano led the procession of firefighters and police officers to Woodlawn Cemetery.
The death of Chelsea Firefighter Peter Kannler, which happened way too fast and way too young, while on active duty and from a cancer that is recognized to be a result of his work as a firefighter, has been a wake up call for the Chelsea Fire Department – as union leaders and management leaders in the Department are calling for a change in the way the job is done nationwide.
Kannler, 37, who left two young children and a wife, fought a battle with stomach and esophageal and liver cancer for about one year before passing away on Saturday, Sept. 3. Before his death though, firefighters in Chelsea said he participated in research studies to help prevent ‘active duty’ firefighter deaths from cancer, and like in his life, he wasn’t quiet about what was happening to him.
“He wanted people to know about his cancer and the way it’s affecting our firefighters in Chelsea and beyond,” said Lt. Brian Capistran, president of the local union. “He wanted to prevent as many as possible, no matter what age or gender, from dying of this disease. The way we’re going to honor Peter is our members are going to take a careful look at our operations. Our safety is going to come first. We are going to make a point of decontaminating our equipment after a fire. The days of the macho old firefighter coming out of a burning building covered in soot are over. We have to think differently. A house fire nowadays is a hazardous material situation.
“Pete is going to be missed,” he continued. “I greatly respected him. He and I were built the same way – telling it like it is and dealing with things later. It’s going to take a while for all of us to get over this.”
Added Firefighter Dave Asci, who served for years on Engine 2 with Kannler, “He really put himself out there to do those studies. It was important to him that people know what firefighters are risking.”
Remembering Kannler has brought on a lot of great memories in the firehouse, especially on Engine 2 – likely the busiest engine in the nation per capita, where Kannler worked. He wore a mohawk all the time and was covered with tattoos, including a tattoo of a mustache on his finger that he used to hold on his upper lip – another example of his constant practical joking nature.
He was famous for elaborate practical jokes, including wallpapering the mechanic’s office and repair manuals one night with hundreds of pictures of Justin Bieber.
Asci said Kannler was the type of firefighter that didn’t seek the spotlight and shunned away from commendations or awards, but certainly was a guy you wanted next to you in a dangerous situation. Beyond that, Asci said that despite Kannler’s rough look and “tell it like it is at all costs” personality, he was a caring man – a family man – who was ready to drop everything for his wife and kids and brothers in the fire service.
“I had a rough year last year and in the middle of it, as sick as Peter was, before I could tell him fully what was happening, he wanted to know what he could do to help me,” said Asci. “He was so sick and he just wanted to help other people. That’s the kind of guy he was.”
But there was a serious firefighter side to Kannler as well, and as an instructor at the Mass Fire Academy and a firefighter with great interest in getting equipment and training from Homeland Security, Kannler brought Chelsea Fire into a new era by advocating for resources the Department had never concentrated on. He attended numerous regional meetings and was responsible for securing grants for safety equipment and training.
With that spirit, Deputy Chief John Quatieri and Chief Leonard Albanese have pledged to change their operations and the culture within the firehouse – particularly around safety and decontaminating equipment upon returning from an incident.
“From a command perspective, we need to rotate our firefighters in and out more often and be thinking about their safety,” said Quatieri. “We can’t leave them in a burning building as long as we’ve been doing. They’re getting beat up and exposed to too many of the carcinogens in a modern house fire. We’ve been making do too long and that needs to change.”
Already, the Department has invested in four hydrogen cyanide meters to measure air quality inside a fire, and they will have one member of the crew responsible for monitoring those meters during a fire. If conditions inside are toxic enough, they will remove firefighters from those dangerous conditions – something that many departments are not yet thinking about.
“It’s affecting every department,” said Quatieri. “You just don’t hear about it as much. When firefighters die in a fire, that gets a lot of publicity, as it should, but with the cancer, it happens every day and doesn’t get much publicity.”
Capistran said firefighters are 60 percent more at risk for certain cancers like Kannler had than the normal civilian. That is a little known fact outside the fire service, but even within the fire service the reality of that has been slow to sink in as old habits die hard.
Chief Albanese shared statistics about firefighter deaths, noting that, since 2000, a majority of firefighter deaths have been due to occupational cancers. In 2014, nationwide, nearly 70 percent of deaths were due to those types of cancers rather than direct firefighting work.
“Today’s fire, a lot of what burns is plastics and foams and flame retardants,” said Capistran. “It burns faster and hotter and it’s a silent killer. A lot of what burned back in the day, when firefighters like my dad were on, was wood. We may not have as many fires as back then, but these fires are deadlier and the conditions are more toxic.”
All four Chelsea Fire members said they plan to take Kannler’s message not only to their own crews, but also to the departments around them and those as far as their message can reach.
“Pete left enough information to help the researchers find a cure,” said Capistran. “His message was that he wanted to protect us more, to smarten us up, prevent exposure, decontaminate our gear and, importantly, he wanted it to be a wake up call for everyone.”
On Saturday July 2nd at 2:10 pm Chelsea Fire Fighters responded to Box 236 located at the Elderly Housing Development at Sixth and Walnut Streets.
Upon arrival crews from E2 and T1 under the command of Deputy John Quatieri reported a heavy smoke condition on floor 2 but were hampered in locating the source of the fire. After forcing entry to several apartments crews located a kitchen fire and advanced a 1 ¾ attack line to attack the fire. As smoke poured through the building several residents began to appear at their windows to escape the heavy smoke before a primary search could be conducted. Deputy Quatieri immediately ordered the Working Fire and crews from E1 and L2 were directed to the first and second floors to conduct a primary and secondary search and evacuate trapped residents while E3 stood by as the Rapid Intervention Company.
At the height of the fire FF Robert Delaney of E1 conducting a search for occupants rescued a Chiahuahua from a smoke filled second floor apartment. A resident that was also rescued by Fire Fighters and suffering from smoke inhalation refused medical treatment.
The fire which was confined to a kitchen on the second floor of 38 Sixth Street was brought under control in about 20 minutes and tenants were allowed to re-enter their apartments.
Chelsea Housing responded to the scene to clean up the affected areas.
Chelsea Fire Prevention is investigating the cause of the fire.
Chelsea Firefighters responded to a fire at the Elderly Housing Development at Sixth and Walnut Streets.
City Councillors will be debating a spending request from City Manager Tom Ambrosino in the coming weeks that calls for an additional $600,000 in fire overtime funds to be expended from the City’s Free Cash account.
The Budget last year already included $900,000 for overtime, in what was controversial at the time, and together, fire overtime in this year’s budget would total out to be $1.5 million.
That comes on top of state overtime money for the Silver Line project that funded a fourth engine company at an expense of $1.372 million – all of which was state money approved within the Silver Line project.
Another controversial expenditure that will likely be brought up again is the ‘Out of Grade’ pay, which went over budge by $80,000. Out of grade pay results when an injury occurs to a superior officer and a subordinate officer has to step into the higher rank position, which results in a higher pay grade. Chelsea has routinely had several superior fire officers go out on injury and several step-ups to fill the higher position.
A third piece that is drawing attention from the Fire Department is the uncollectible fire details, which is at $105,116. Fire details sometimes are hired or required, and there are times when the property owner(s) do not pay the bill. The City routinely pays the firefighters and then absorbs the cost of the uncollected detail bills. This year, the fire portion came in at more than $100,000.
“My concerns within the Budget process and then now with deficit accounts are these three areas,” said Councillor Leo Robinson. “I am concerned about fire overtime, about out of grade pay and about the uncollected details. We need to spend wisely. This was supposed to be better tracked and fixed last year when we had the same problems.”
Chelsea Police detectives and State troopers assigned to the Suffolk DA’s office are investigating the death of a 4-month old boy discovered around noon on Monday, Police Chief Brian Kyes and District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
A family member found the child unresponsive in their Washington Avenue apartment at about noon. He was transported to Whidden Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased. A preliminary examination of the body did not reveal immediate signs of violent trauma and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of his death. Detectives have likewise not developed evidence of foul play but their investigation remains active.
As with all death investigations, anyone with additional information is asked to share it with police. Chelsea Police detectives may be reached at 617-466-4805 and the Suffolk County State Police Detective Unit, which has jurisdiction over unattended deaths in Chelsea, may be reached at 617-727-8817.
BELLINGHAM AVE FIRE
On Tuesday evening, May 31, at 6 p.m. Chelsea 9-1-1 received multiple calls reporting a building fire at 144 Bellingham St. Upon arrival firefighters under the command of Acting Deputy Robert Denning reported a heavy smoke condition and fire in a bedroom ceiling on the second floor. Crews from E2 and T1 stretched a 1 ¾ attack line to suppress the fire while E3 and L2 opened up the affected areas and performed ventilation and roof operations.
Crews quickly knocked down the fire which was confined to a second floor bedroom. Cataldo Ambulance was requested to the scene to evaluate a second floor tenant that suffered smoke inhalation in an attempt to put out the fire. The tenant was eventually transported to the hospital. CFD Arson Investigator Captain Michael Gurska responded to the scene to determine the cause of the fire. Members from Chelsea Inspectional Services Electrical and Code Enforcement. Emergency Management Director Robert Verdone also responded to the scene to assist the Red Cross in the relocation of several residents that were displaced by the fire. Everett and Revere Fire provided mutual aid coverage during the fire.
A four-alarm fire tore through a Cottage Street home on Friday evening, April 22.
Chelsea 911 started receiving multiple calls for smoke coming from a building at 61 Cottage Street about 5:30 p.m. When firefighters arrived heavy fire and smoke was coming from the third floor of the building and Act. Deputy Massucci ordered the working fire. The fire was also extending into the second and third floor apartments as well as the cockloft and roof.
As first arriving firefighters started attacking the fire, many other residents were still being removed from the building by police and firefighters. One police officer, David Delaney, is being credited with saving two young boys who were playing video game inside the home and had no idea there was a fire raging.
Due to the deteriorating fire conditions and exposure to adjacent buildings, as well as the inability to efficiently utilize ladder company ariels due to overhead power lines, Deputy Massucci quickly struck a Second, Third and Fourth Alarm bringing help from Boston, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Medford, Saugus, Somerville and Winthrop.
Several firefighters were injured fighting the fire and were transported to the hospital. Assistant Emergency Management Director Robert Verdone arrived on scene and located shelter for 16 residents that were displaced by the fire.
The fire cause was determined to be accidental due to improper disposal of smoking materials on the 3rd floor porch. This fire also highlights a common fire hazard in the City. Fires on porches spread quickly due to the open wood frame construction and heavy fire loads. This combined with outside air and wind cause rapid auto-exposure from floor to floor and structure to structure.
“Building owners and tenants are reminded to keep their porches free from debris,” said Chief Lou Albanese. “There should be no storage, and no furniture that is meant for the interior of dwellings used on porches. Also, the fire department has restricted the use of gas grills on porches. Grills should only be used at ground level away from the structure.”
Cataldo EMS and President Paul Boudreau of Boston Sparks Association, along with several club members, were also on scene providing refreshments and ReHab for firefighters.
Captain Richard Perisie and the State Fire Marshalls office are investigating the cause of the fire.
“This once again was strong work by Chelsea Fire,” said Chief Lou Albanese. “They made an aggressive attack with limited manpower upon arrival, and made a great stop, keeping this fire contained to the structure without spreading to nearby exposures.”
Flames burst from the third floor of a home at 61 Cottage St. on Friday evening, April 22. The four-alarm fire was complicated to fight.
Chelsea Firefighters were kept quite busy over the weekend responding to two serious fires that broke out at two high-rise developments on Admirals Hill, including one at the Leonard Florence Center for Living (LFCFL).
The first fire, which occurred Friday morning, April 8, almost turned tragic when ,according to reports circulating local media outlets, 96-year-old Charles Lanzillo (a former Chelsea Record employee) became trapped inside his third floor apartment after materials being used to renovate the apartment caused a sudden explosion and fire.
He was rescued by his daughter, former Chelsea Director of Public Buildings Joan Lanzillo, who happened to be visiting him at the time of the fire.
Firefighters responded to Box 915 at the Chelsea Village Apartments at 5 Admirals Way after receiving an alarm activation and a telephone report of a fire on the third floor. Chelsea E3 under the command of Acting Lt. Purcell was in the immediate area and first to arrive.
Upon arrival they reported a heavy smoke condition and fire that was contained to one apartment on the third floor and requested the next due Engine Company to fill the standpipe systems so they could charge an attack line on the fire.
After arriving on scene, Deputy Chief Ulwick assumed command and immediately ordered the working fire. Crews from T1 and L2 assisted E3 in quickly knocking down the main body of fire while crews from E1 and Everett E2 and L1 who were specially called to the fire to assist with search/rescue and evacuation of residents on the upper floors. Members of the Chelsea Fire Investigation Unit, as well as the State Fire Marshals Office, also responded to the scene. Power was also terminated to the affected areas. The fire is currently under investigation.
The second fire occurred on Saturday morning, April 9, as Firefighters responded to the LFCFL located at 165 Captains Row after Chelsea Fire Alarm received a Box Alarm activation from the facility. While en route, a call was received reporting a stove fire on the sixth floor. Upon arrival, firefighters under the command of Deputy Robert Cameron encountered a heavy smoke condition as well as a stove fire that was extending to the walls and ceiling in the east wing kitchen on the sixth floor.
Crews from E2 and L1 utilized the fifth floor standpipe to knock down the main body of fire as crews from E1, 3 and L2 along with facility staff safely evacuated and sheltered several residents into the west wing until the fire was brought under control.
Cataldo Ambulance crews also responded to the scene to evaluate several patients on the fourth floor complaining of respiratory issues. Chelsea Fire Prevention and members from ISD also responded to the scene.