Mass. firefighters attend hockey game of injured N.H. firefighter's son

Boston and Quincy FFs stopped by the rink where Manchester Capt. Steve DesRuisseaux's son, Jack, was playing in a game


Mark Hayward
The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester

DORCHESTER, Mass. — Manchester Fire Capt. Steve DesRuisseaux was heading down a ladder head first on his stomach — the position he taught many firefighter trainees at the New Hampshire Fire Academy — when his gear snagged on the ladder, a Manchester fire official said.

Hung up while an intensively hot flashover was incinerating everything combustible in its reach, DesRuisseaux survived because Firefighter Josh Charpentier kicked out the legs of the ladder, causing it to fall sideways, said Manchester Fire District Chief Ryan Cashin.

"It was a one in a million chance," Cashin said Monday about DesRuisseaux's equipment getting caught on the ladder.

Also Monday, authorities released the name of the woman who died in the 6 p.m. Saturday night fire at 8 Dutton St. in the Janesville section of Manchester.

Kathryn Conn, 59, died from smoke inhalation, according to a statement issued by New Hampshire Fire Marshal Sean Toomey. His office and Manchester police and fire departments are continuing their investigation into the fire, the statement reads.

Cashin said DesRuisseaux is in good spirits at Massachusetts General Hospital and speaking to family members and well-wishers. He was burned on about a third of his body, including his legs.

Firefighters rescued six people from the apartment building, including a baby.

On Monday, he shared a statement thanking everyone for their support, including his colleagues at the fire department.

"Everyone there that night of the fire saved lives, including my own. These are my true heroes," DesRuisseaux said.

Cashin said DesRuisseaux had led a person from a third-floor apartment to a second-floor porch and then onto an extension ladder. The man was off the ladder when the flashover prompted DesRuisseaux to bail.

A fire academy instructor, DesRuisseaux did so the correct way, sliding down the ladder head first. When his breathing device caught near the top of the ladder, Charpentier made the on-the-spot decision to kick out the ladder, sending DesRuisseaux on a two-story fall and also injuring Lt. Scott Brassard, who was on the ladder.

"That's probably what saved (DesRuisseaux's) life," Cashin said.

Meanwhile, DesRuisseaux's heroics were gaining attention in New England.

Firefighters from Boston and Quincy firefighters stopped by the hockey rink in Dorchester, Mass., where DesRuisseaux's son, Jack, was playing with a game as a Boston Junior Bruins.

Boston Firefighters Local 718 tweeted a photo of DesRuisseaux in Junior Bruins uniform flanked by about 20 off-duty firefighters.

"I think that's a representation of what the brotherhood of firefighters is all about," Cashin said. The union's Burn Foundation is putting DesRuisseaux's family up in a Boston hotel.

In his statement Monday, DesRuisseaux thanked Boston firefighters "for their extreme support and generosity to me and my family as I embark on my long recovery at MGH. They have been truly remarkable and I can't thank them enough."

He also sent condolences to the family of fire victim Kathryn Conn, saying his "heart and prayers go out to them."

According to city records, 8 Dutton St. received its three-year certificate of compliance with city building and fire codes in February 2020 and won't come up for renewal until January 2023.

In 2019, the city gave a notice to the owner for violation of two issues — wiring on a rear bedroom floor and an improperly ventilated clothes dryer.

Both were corrected and the certificate was issued.

The owner of the building is listed as Alex Chen; a telephone call to him was not returned. The property manager, Joshua Willett of Hudson, said he did not want to say anything, other than he is working with authorities in their investigation.

The building meets fire-safety codes for existing structures, said city Fire Marshal Peter Lennon. Those National Fire Protection Association codes call for hard-wired, battery-backup smoke detectors.

Lennon said smoke detectors were working, and they were clearly heard beeping during 911 calls.

"If that was a new building, new construction, it would be required to have sprinklers and fire alarms," Lennon said. But existing buildings fall under a different set of codes. According to city property records, the apartment building was built in 1920.

The Red Cross is providing assistance to 17 people displaced by the fire. Some have moved in with family members while some are living in hotels.

"How long that will go on, we really can't say as of now," said Mary Brant, a spokesman for the Northern New England chapter of the Red Cross.

The organization is also providing food and replacing medicine and medical equipment lost in the fire.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family of DesRuisseaux with expenses not covered by insurance. It can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/vzx3qf-medical-rehabilitation-fund

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(c)2021 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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