WORCESTER, Mass. — A Worcester firefighter died fighting a four-alarm fire on Stockholm Street early Wednesday.
"Our city has suffered an unimaginable loss with the death of Fire Lieutenant Jason Menard," Fire Chief Michael Lavoie said in a news conference.
Lieutenant Jason Menard, 39, died after he returned to help a trapped firefighter out a window, Lavoie said.
The fire started just before 1 a.m. at a three-level home at 7 Stockholm St., and was elevated to a four-alarm fire just after 2 a.m.
According to the fire chief, there was a report of a baby trapped on the third floor.
"Lieutenant Menard along with his crew from ladder five were making heroic efforts to search for a reported trapped resident along with the baby on the second floor," Chief Lavoie said. "While gaining entry to the third floor, ladder five became trapped by heavy fire conditions."
The crews faced heavy winds, cold temperatures and growing fire, and Chief Lavoie said the crew became trapped on the upper floors. Menard returned to the upper floors to evacuate the rest of his crew before he was overcome by the flames.
Menard and three other firefighters were taken to UMass Medical Center in Worcester. Two firefighters were released and one remains in serious, but stable, condition, Lavoie said. An adult woman who lived in the home was taken to the hospital with serious injuries; all other occupants are accounted for and no other injuries were reported, the Worcester Fire chief said in a statement.
"Losing Jason - he had a true passion for the job and he will be missed," Worcester Fire union president Michael Papagni said. "They had planned to be on a trip to Disney this morning, but are now planning a hero's send-off."
Menard, who has been a member of the Worcester Fire Department since 2010, leaves behind a wife and three children, and his parents. The Worcester resident was assigned to Ladder 5, Group 2 at the McKeon Road Fire Station.
The tragic news comes just a day after the city announced special commemorations for the Worcester Six and Firefighter Christopher Roy, who died just a year ago.
"To have this cruel loss this morning is almost more than one city can bear," City Manager Edward Augustus said.
Menard's death marks the ninth Worcester firefighter to have died in the line of duty in the past 20 years.
Six firefighters, known as the Worcester Six, died fighting the Cold Storage Fire in 1999; firefighter Jon Davies died fighting a fire on Dec. 8, 2011; and just last year, 36-year-old Christopher Roy died fighting a 5-alarm fire on Lowell Street. Worcester fire officials had just announced the creation of a memorial dedicated to the city's fallen firefighters Tuesday night.
IAFF General Secretary Ed Kelly, who was part of the response team at the 1999 Cold Storage Fire, called Menard a hero, saying “Lt. Menard’s actions last night, first leading his crew of Ladder 5 into an inferno to search for a baby reported to be on the top floor, and then courageously rescuing one probationary firefighter and continuing to rescue a second trapped firefighter are the most heroic I’ve heard in my 25 years of firefighting.”
As a procession transporting Menard's body left Worcester for the medical examiner's office in Boston. Police, firefighters and first responders stood on overpasses, parked on the shoulder of the Mass. Pike, and saluted as the solemn procession drove by.
The City of Worcester tweeted out on Wednesday afternoon that an official memorial fund was being established, though the official announcement has not been made yet.
The cause of the fire is under investigation by multiple agencies, including the ATF, state Fire Marshal, State Police detectives and the Worcester district attorney's office.
The Red Cross said it's assisting nine people who were displaced.
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