Off-duty firefighter evacuates residents of burning building

Robert Barreda, a 12-year veteran of the Nahant Fire Department, pulled his car over after he noticed dark gray smoke coming from an apartment building

Marie Szaniszlo
Boston Herald

LYNN, Mass. — An off-duty firefighter is being hailed as a hero after he ran into a 3-alarm Lynn house fire at 9 a.m. Wednesday and helped get people out safely. Robert Barreda, a 12-year veteran of the Nahant Fire Department, tells the Herald’s Marie Szaniszlo how an ordinary spring morning turned into a call to action:

"I had just dropped my 3-year-old daughter off at day care and was at the intersection of Western Avenue and Essex Street when I saw dark gray smoke coming from a three-family house at 56 Essex St. I went though a quick mental checklist — could it be smoke from a chimney, could someone be grilling out back — and thought, no, that’s smoke from a structure fire."

Barreda continued, "I pulled the truck over and got out and saw the flames. I was dialing 911 as I ran into the building. People seemed to be mobilizing, so I went through all three units and made sure everyone was out and there were no family members or animals left. Hopefully, I didn’t freak them out anymore than they already were.

By the time I left the building, a Lynn engine company truck was there. The Lynn Fire Department did a great job stopping the fire from spreading to other buildings. It was a pretty challenging spot for a fire because all the buildings are almost touching. Two are only about three feet apart."

It was second-nature to Barreda. 

"Did I have any hesitation about running into the house? No. That’s what we do. There was no second thought. I couldn’t drive off, assuming someone else would do it."

 Lynn fire Chief Stephen Archer said the fire, which started with improper disposal of smoking materials on the second-floor rear porch, burned its way into the wood-frame building, leaving six adults and seven children homeless and causing an estimated $250,000 in damage. 

He’s aware of the hazards and dangers, and he did a great job, alerting the residents and helping them out," Archer said.

Barreda’s boss, Nahant fire Chief Michael Feinberg, also praised him.

"Because of his quick actions and bravery, no one was injured in the fire, and firefighters were able to get to the building quickly in order to prevent more damage from being done," Feinberg said. "It just goes to show when you’re in the fire service, you’re never really off duty."


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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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