Investigation opened into fire that killed Worcester Fire Lt. Jason Menard
"We really feel like we owe it to Jason, and his family, and our department, to really understand exactly how this fire happened," Worcester Fire Deputy Chief Martin Dyer said
By Cyrus Moulton
Telegram & Gazette
WORCESTER, Mass. — The flames are out.
But the investigation into the fire that killed Lt. Jason Menard — and just as importantly, the process of healing — is just beginning.
"The resources that we're bringing in to this fire investigation are above and beyond normal," Worcester Fire Deputy Chief Martin Dyer said in an interview Saturday. "But we really feel like we owe it to Jason, and his family, and our department, to really understand exactly how this fire happened."
Menard, 39, died from injuries sustained in an early morning, four-alarm fire at 7 Stockholm St. on Wednesday. Three other firefighters were taken to the hospital with injuries from the blaze, and Firefighter Chris Pace remains hospitalized with injuries from a traumatic fall, Dyer said.
"All preliminary accounts suggest that Lt. Menard assisted (Pace) out the window," Dyer said.
Menard leaves a wife, Tina, and three children.
Dyer said that the investigation into the cause and origin of the fire is just beginning and that it would be "premature" to say what exactly happened to Menard and Pace.
"We truly don't have the full picture yet," Dyer said.
But the deputy chief was confident that the picture would become clear, praising the fire investigators from federal to local agencies with the fire investigation team combing through the scene, interviewing witnesses and firefighters, and trying to find out what exactly happened that morning.
"We have (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), electrical engineers, fire protection engineers, structural engineers, all working within their specialty area to look at whatever evidence is brought to them, to process it, to really get a good understanding of could this have been a cause, could this not have been a cause," Dyer said. "They're going to try and piece this whole fire back together again."
The Fire Department is also undertaking its own investigation, Dyer said.
Meanwhile, the department is also trying to cope — once again — with loss.
Menard's death comes less than a year after the December death of Firefighter Christopher Roy.
December is also a brutal emotional month for the department. This December marks the 20th anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. building blaze that claimed the lives of six firefighters.
On Dec. 8, 2011, Worcester lost Firefighter Jon Davies, who was battling a burning three-decker on Arlington Street when he got caught in a collapse.
"What a passion he had for this job," Dyer said, remembering Menard as "a family man" and a "good, good person." "This just wasn't a job to him, it was his calling, his livelihood, his responsibility ... he understood the burden that was placed on his shoulders. ... He was a very impressive young officer."
Dyer similarly praised Pace.
"He's handling everything well," Dyer said. "He's got a long road ahead of him, but he's got a lot of support — family support, his wife is a rock — and he's getting all the support he needs from us.
"I cannot say enough about this department," Dyer added. "I'm so proud of our members and the way they always rise to the occasion."
The community is rising to the occasion as well.
Firetrucks have been detailed, meals donated, streets swept, a funeral and wake arranged, and more as the city prepares for the funeral on Monday. Dyer praised dispatchers, first responders and ambulance crews, emergency room teams and the city administration — particularly City Manager Edward M. Augustus and Mayor Joe Petty — for using all their resources and collective talents this week in support of the department.
"Everybody says, 'What can I do?' " said Nicole Valentine, deputy assistant city manager. Valentine's husband is also a firefighter. "A handwritten note from a preschooler means just as much as a $5,000 gift to the Menard family."
But now the community — both the firefighting community and the Worcester community — have to heal.
"That's the piece of it that comes next," Valentine said. "It will be a long road, but everybody knows there is help and it is okay to ask for help."
And who better than firefighters to know about providing help?
"We focus on Jason and his family and Chris and his family, but I think it's really important to recognize that this department this past year pulled 11 people out of burning buildings," Dyer said. "Every year we are rescuing people. ... This is why we take risks, this is why we do our jobs, because it does make a difference."
Calling hours will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Mercadente Funeral Home and Chapel, 370 Plantation St. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at St. John Catholic Church, 44 Temple St.
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