Mass. firefighters fulfill 'hero's sendoff' promise for fallen Fire Lt. Jason Menard
Hundreds of first responders from across the state gathered to pay their respects to Menard, who was killed in a four-alarm fire last week
MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass.
It was the beginning of a hero’s sendoff.
Worcester fire officials promised Tina Menard and her three children a hero’s sendoff for Lt. Jason Menard. It’s a promise no fire department wants to fulfill, and one Worcester firefighters have had to deliver eight other times in the last 20 years.
Firefighters, police officers and paramedics from across Massachusetts lined up outside Mercadante Funeral Home in Worcester on Sunday afternoon, paying their respects to Menard, who was killed in a four-alarm fire early Wednesday morning at 7 Stockholm St.
Menard, 39, has been called a hero by fire officials and residents alike - as flames overtook the third floor of the building around 1 a.m. Wednesday, Menard pushed fellow Ladder 5 firefighter Chris Pace out a window to safety. He also helped another firefighter find the stairs, but Menard was not able to escape the burning three-decker. The crew had been searching for a mother and baby reportedly in the building. It appears the mother and baby made it out safely before firefighters went inside.
“These families are staying strong and that’s because the community has rallied around behind them,” Worcester Fire Local 1009 President Michael Papagni said. “Our firefighters are staying strong and standing by each other and will continue to do so.”
Well wishes, thoughts and prayers have been posted across the internet since Wednesday. A growing memorial of flowers and stuffed animals sits outside the McKeon Road Fire Station. Sunday’s wake put the support behind the Menard family and the Worcester Fire Department into striking imagery, as a line of firefighters from near and far snaked down the front steps of the funeral home and across Plantation Street.
Firefighters’ badges showed they came from across the state: Greenfield, Boston, Carver, Oxford. They stood patiently, waiting to walk through the funeral home as temperatures hovered around freezing.
A memorial fund has been set up for Menard’s children and local restaurants, bars and organizations are planning their own fundraisers. Menard became a Worcester firefighter in 2010 and was promoted to lieutenant last year.
“The community has come out in an amazing way to support our fire department, which obviously we need at this time,” said Fire Chief Michael Lavoie, thanking residents. “I also want to thank the members of the Worcester Fire Department who come to work every sing day and do their job with heavy hearts and obviously tremendous sadness right now."
A funeral is planned for Monday morning, with an even larger showing of support from firefighters. While Worcester mourns Menard, firefighters from other towns and cities will man Worcester’s stations, responding to emergency calls.
Just next door to the wake, Pace remained at UMass Memorial Medical Center, recovering from broken bones and burns. He’s in stable condition, but has a long road to recovery, said Martin Dyer, a Worcester Fire Deputy Chief and the department’s spokesman.
“He’s being well taken care of by a fantastic family, very strong, caring wife and he has the full support of the Worcester Fire Department behind him,” Dyer said, also thanking those at UMass Memorial Medical Center.
Fire officials released 7 Stockholm St. back to the control of its owner Saturday night, as the investigation into what caused the fire continues, Dyer said.
Menard’s death comes at a trying time for the fire department. Over the summer, Lt. John Kennedy died a few days after battling a fire.
Last year on Dec. 9, Firefighter Christopher Roy was killed battling a blaze at 5-7 Lowell St. Prosecutors say that fire was intentionally lit.
Just a few weeks from now will mark the 20th anniversary of the Dec. 3, 1999, Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Fire, which claimed the lives of six firefighters.
And on Dec. 8, 2011, Firefighter Jon D. Davies Sr. died while battling flames inside an Arlington Street three-decker.
“I know I speak for every single citizen of this city when I say how proud we are of them and how we mourn with them, our heart bleeds with them, and how we’ll be with them and the Menard family and Chris Pace and his family in the hours, days, months and years ahead,” City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. said.
The toll is visible in the eyes and the emotional voices of city firefighters.
“Any firefighter fatality, it changes you, it changes your life, no matter who you are,” Lavoie said. “Hopefully we’ll all get through it."
©2019 MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass.