Report on Massachusetts LODD Released

A state police report details how what seemed to be a manageable fire quickly deteriorated into a tragedy that ended with the death of firefighter Martin H. McNamara.

Getting out of the basement

McLaughlin's low-air alarm went off, so he attempted to exit the basement.

"I headed in a direction I thought was where the stairs were, but couldn't find the line. I asked Eddie (McNamara) where the line was and he put my hand on it. I started following it back and made it to where it formed a loop, which I followed," McLaughlin said. "I bumped into Eddie somewhere around this time. The smoke was getting thicker and darker so I told Eddie to dump the cellar."

Ford then heard that a Clinton crew was exiting with low or no air and "he knew things were going to s...."

Soon after, he heard over the radio that there were two firefighters missing.

The whole front hallway filled up with firefighters trying to make their way down to the basement.

McLaughlin still couldn't find his way out of the smoke-filled basement.

"I couldn't find the rest of the line," McLaughlin said. "Someone grabbed me as they were going by and pulled me up but I fell back down again."

"I took the regulator off my face piece and put my face to the ground to get air. I was crawling and trying to find the stairs," McLaughlin said.

A deputy chief in the basement called a mayday at about 4:07 a.m., the NIOSH report said.

McLaughlin placed his face near the ground and waited for help.

Lancaster Firefighter Dale DiMeco went downstairs after being told there were firefighters in the basement and saw McLaughlin at the bottom of the stairs.

He helped pull McLaughlin to the stairs and out, DiMeco said in his statement.

Failed rescue attempts

After McLaughlin was brought out, Ford heard he still had another firefighter missing.

Eddie McNamara asked who was left in the cellar.

"I told him it was Steve DiMeco and I though Dale DiMeco was the other guy. I didn't find out it was (Martin McNamara) until a couple of days after when I got off the vent," McLaughlin said.

Sterling Lt. David Johnson and Sterling firefighter Kevin went back into the house and were told by another firefighter in the hall that there were two more firefighters in the basement and to "hurry up and help them," according to Johnson's statement to State Police.

Johnson met another firefighter on the basement stairs who said he was out of air and there was still another firefighter in the basement, which was now very hot and filled with smoke.

Johnson reached the basement floor, and was only able to see blue and red flames rolling and creating thick black smoke.

He and Grebinar crawled along the hose line searching for McNamara, yelling for him to turn on his Personal Alert Safety System device, but they heard nothing, Johnson told State Police.

They were unable to find the nozzle of the fire hose, but they came across McNamara attempting to crawl toward Johnson.

McNamara, who was not wearing a mask, yelled to Johnson to "get him out of here," Johnson said.

Johnson grabbed McNamara's harness and pulled him back to the bottom of the stairs where Grebinar was, but the two could not move him on their own.

Johnson called for radio help, but could not remember if anyone answered.

The basement then became "extremely hot" and the two firefighters had to abandon McNamara, Johnson said.

Lancaster Deputy Fire Chief Patrick McGloughlin jumped off of the Devens fire engine when he arrived and heard there was a missing firefighter.

McGloughlin and Devens Firefighter Marc Matthews made it halfway down to the basement before the "all out" was sounded, and they were forced to retreat, as "blue flames started rolling across the ceiling toward them," according to McGloughlin's statement to State Police.

Matthews could hear a faint PASS device at the bottom of the stairs, but after he turned to tell McGloughlin, blue and orange flames rolled toward them and the "all out" horns sounded and they were forced to leave, according to Matthews statement to State Police.