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‘Brothers take care of each other': Mass. firefighters unite to replace stolen axe

Lawrence Firefighter Patrick Sweeney was gifted a new axe, complete with an engraving of his grandfather’s dog tags


By Jill Harmacinski
The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

LAWRENCE, Mass. — When Patrick Sweeney’s Dodge Charger Hellcat was stolen, the Lawrence firefighter lost more than just his car.

His turnout gear, boots, helmet, clothing and a specialized tool for firefighting were all inside. Dog tags and a prayer card for Sweeney’s late grandfather were also tucked in his firefighting helmet.

Sweeney has yet to see the car or its contents since it was stolen from his girlfriend’s apartment complex in Wilmington on Dec. 5.

While such a loss might have dimmed the Christmas season, a group of firefighters banded together to make things brighter. Or as Auburn, New Hampshire, firefighter Mike Laprade explained, “brothers do what brothers do and take care of each other.”

On Christmas Eve, Sweeney was given a new MetroAdze firefighting tool to replace the one stolen with his car. Laprade and his partners make the MetroAdze tool which includes the features of the traditional firefighter tool, the Halligan, and an axe.

“It’s a cross between a strike tool and a pry tool. It’s definitely a good tool,” said Sweeney, explaining he uses it frequently on the job.

In reviews, firefighters describe the MetroAdze “as a versatile, force entry, open up, overhaul tool” and “lightweight but packs a punch.”

This new tool is unlike any other, though, because the details on Sweeney’s grandfather’s dog tags are engraved on the MetroAdze.

“You’ll have a piece of your grandfather with you on every call,” said Sweeney, recalling Laprade’s words to him.

Born Jan. 5, 1942, James P. Sweeney of Lawrence served in the United States Coast Guard. He passed away on June 12, 2004.

Sweeney’s grandmother, Jan Sweeney of Lawrence, and his girlfriend, Becca Biancardi, a local nurse, both helped Laprade get the necessary details he needed to engrave the tool.

“It was such a shock and it really humbles you,” said Sweeney of the gift. “I was completely blown away,”

Firefighters from New England and New York, some strangers to him, chipped in to pay of the MetroAdze, which is several hundred dollars.

Sweeney, 35, a firefighter for the past seven years, said the experience further emboldened his decision to work in his community and help others.

“It’s really been eye opening for me,” he said.


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