Off-duty Mass. fire chief spots fire, evacuates residents

North Brookfield Fire Chief Joseph Holway searched throughout the three-story building to make sure everyone was outside


Kim Ring
Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.

WARE, Mass. — With his big dog, Angus, in the back seat of his Jeep, Joseph Holway was headed up West Street with a lunch in a sack from McDonald’s when he spotted smoke.

He called the fire department to report a building fire then rushed to the three-story apartment building at 133 West Main St., raced inside and began, “kicking in a few doors.”

Firefighters work at the scene of an apartment fire in Ware, Mass. on Tuesday, March 23. North Brookfield Fire Chief Joseph Holway spotted the fire while off duty and evacuated residents.
Firefighters work at the scene of an apartment fire in Ware, Mass. on Tuesday, March 23. North Brookfield Fire Chief Joseph Holway spotted the fire while off duty and evacuated residents. (Photo/Kim Ring, Telegram & Gazette)

One man, who was a bit hesitant to leave, said he was encouraged by Holway to get out.

On the third floor, Holway found the fire inside an apartment and once he knew folks were safely out, he left the building, too.

By then flames were pouring from the windows.

Holway knew exactly what to do because he’s the fire chief in North Brookfield.

He took little credit for his role at the fire which was reported at about 11:45 Tuesday morning, instead giving kudos to the firefighters from Ware, Warren, Belchertown and Palmer who quickly extinguished the flames while Bondsville firefighters covered the Ware station.

Ware’s Interim Fire Chief Christopher Gagnon said he knew there were several 911 callers who reported the blaze, but he wasn’t aware that Holway was one of them.

“He was on scene," Gagnon said. "I actually heard some traffic on the radio before I got here that sounded like it might have been him."

Once firefighters arrived and the fire was under control, Holway broke out his lunch.

Gagnon said the fire was contained to the third floor apartment and the building can be rehabilitated. The Red Cross was helping between 10 and 14 residents who were displaced.

Firefighters rescued two or three cats belonging to some of the occupants, Gagnon said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation and the state Fire Marshal's Office was assisting Ware firefighters and police to determine what happened.

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(c)2021 Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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