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Arson eyed in Mass. fire that killed firefighter

Investigators had believed that man might have been trapped in collapsed structure where Firefighter Jon Davies died last week battling fire

By Shaun Sutner; Linda Bock; John J. Monahan
The Telegram & Gazette

WORCESTER, Mass. — Although investigators had believed that a man might have been trapped in the collapsed three-decker where a city firefighter died last week battling a blaze, no body has been found in the rubble, authorities said yesterday.

Firefighter Jon. D. Davies Sr. died and Firefighter Brian Carroll was injured after firefighters entered 49 Arlington St. early Thursday morning on a rescue mission; a man was reported to be inside during the fire.

Firefighter Carroll was released Friday from UMass Memorial Medical Center - University Campus, where he was treated for injuries suffered in the building’s collapse.

District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.'s office said yesterday that the investigation at the fire scene was largely complete. The cause and origin of the fire are still to be determined.

The missing man thought to have been in the rubble is now being sought by investigators as a potential witness. His name has not been released.

City Manager Michael V. O’Brien said yesterday the city is also keeping open all enforcement options pertaining to numerous building and sanitary code violations, pending the conclusion of the district attorney’s investigation.

Meanwhile, fire and city officials are making preparations for 8,000 to 12,000 firefighters from here and across the country at the funeral Thursday for Firefighter Davies, a 17-year Worcester firefighter assigned to Rescue Squad 1.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick, who was on the same plane Sunday from Atlanta as Firefighter Davies’ son, Senior Airman Jon D. Davies Jr., plans to attend the funeral with Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray.

Mr. Patrick was returning from a trade mission to Chile and Brazil, and Airman Davies was making his way back to Massachusetts from Afghanistan, where he is serving with the U.S. Air Force.

The governor said Mr. Davies’ flight from Bahrain landed in Atlanta about the same time his flight arrived there, and he got to talk to Airman Davies on the connecting flight to Boston.

“I met his brother and sister on the tarmac. They were there when we arrived” in Boston, the governor said yesterday. State police and the National Guard had arranged for Airman Davies’ family members to meet him when his flight arrived at Logan airport.

“Jon was dignified, composed and I think understandably still in shock,” Mr. Patrick said. “He had been on, I think, five flights over the course of three days trying to get home.”

Mr. Patrick said he spoke with Worcester Fire Chief Gerard A. Dio on the morning of the fire and also with Mr. Murray and state Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan about the firefighter’s death.

“It’s a terrible tragedy. I think right now my thoughts are mainly with the family and with all the firefighters who share in the grief,” Mr. Patrick said.

Firefighter Davies’ life will be celebrated at a funeral Mass at 10 a.m. Thursday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 24 Mulberry St.

Fire and city officials met yesterday afternoon to firm up plans for the funeral, which call for the Worcester Fire Brigade Pipes and Drums Band to proceed from the Franklin Street fire station to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Worcester firefighters will meet at the station at 8:30 a.m. and will march together to the church about two blocks away. Firefighter Davies was assigned to the Franklin Street station.

Firefighters from other communities will line up along the route. Shuttle buses will be provided from other parking areas for the funeral.

“Worcester firefighters, unfortunately, have a lot of experience in this,” said Ed Kelly, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.

Mr. Kelly said his organization is working with Boston Carmen’s Union, Local 589 and MBTA transit officials, to coordinate bus transportation for firefighters traveling to the funeral from across the state.

Mr. Kelly said meetings were still being held to discuss the best strategy for transporting firefighters to Worcester.

A big contingent of Boston firefighters plans to attend the funeral, according to Boston Firefighter Steve MacDonald, who serves as the department’s public information officer.

He said firefighters from Boston will travel to Worcester in several buses.

Because of limited space in the church, city and Fire Department officials are encouraging the public to honor Firefighter Davies by lining the route of the procession from the church to St. John’s Cemetery, where he will be buried after the Mass.

Relatives and friends are invited to calling hours at Mercadante Funeral Home & Chapel, 370 Plantation St., from 3 to 8 p.m. tomorrow.

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