MARLBOROUGH – The Marlborough Fire Department responded to the town of Southborough Aug. 5 for a mutual aid assignment for a structure fire at 21 Sears Road that had been struck by lightning.
Engine 1, under the command of Lieutenant Omar Torres, along with firefighters Matthew Armour, Ralph Caccaipaglia and Mike Lupisella arrived on scene and reported to the incident commander, Southborough Fire Chief Steve Achilles.
Achilles tasked Engine 1’s crew to cut a ventilation hole in the roof to allow heat and smoke to escape and allow the interior fire crews to attack the fire.
Due to the heavy rain, thunder and lightning, Southborough could not put the aerial on their ladder into operation because it would have been a large lightning rod. So Engine 1’s crew took a ground ladder and a roof ladder – which is a ladder with hooks on the end to go over the ridge of the roof to secure it – off Southborough’s rig and proceeded to carry out the task it was assigned.
“We had gained access to the roof and were pushing the roof ladder into position,” said Torres. “Firefighter armor was basically at eye level with the second-floor window while joining the lieutenant and the rest of the crew when the whole room lit up orange.”
It was that time that the fire flashed and vented on the opposite side of the roof, driving the interior crews out of the building. It was at that time that two Southborough firefighters and a Westborough fire sustained injuries. Their visibility was greatly diminished because of the rain and the swirling smoke.
Achilles ordered the evacuation signal to be sounded. The statewide evacuation signal for firefighters to get out of the building is 15 to 30 seconds of air horns on the fire apparatus sounding.
From that point, the fire was fought from the outside to not endanger personnel. The roof that Engine 1’s crew was on collapsed into the structure just after they got off of it, with Southborough’s roof ladder going in with it.
Meanwhile, while this fire was in progress, Southborough’s dispatchers received calls for a possible house hit by a lightning strike on Carriage Hill Road.
Marlborough sent Engine 5, staffed by recalled personnel, including Lt. Mike Burnell and Firefighters Dana Soroka, Jim Fortin Jr. and Daniel Martins to investigate that incident.
It turned out that trees behind the home were struck by lightning that triggered a brush fire.
There were a total of 13 other incidents as a result of the fast moving storm, mostly downed trees and wires. Engine 5 eventually ended up at the Sears Road incident to assist in overhaul and mop up operations. Marlborough Assistant Chief Jeff Gogan also responded to the Sears Road incident to assist.
Captain Jon Ayotte was in Marlborough Car 5 as the acting battalion chief. While Marlborough only had one call during the storm, he had to shuffle personnel around to staff the remaining apparatus. At one point, the remaining engine company in the city was tied up at a call and all that was left for available apparatus was the Rescue, Tower 1 and Ladder 2.
Northborough had requested an engine company to assist it while department members were tied up at incidents. Marlborough was unable to send an engine to respond.
This wasn’t the only mutual aid call that Marlborough responded to in recent days. On July 30, Marlborough sent an engine company to Northborough to assist them in battling a house fire at 162 Whitney Street.
Torres summed up the day in a simple sentence: “Everyone worked their tails off at this fire, that’s for sure.”