Each year the Lawrence Exchange Club presents Lawrence, Andover and North Andover public safety officials with the Police Officer, Firefighters, and EMT’s of the Year. Lawrence Fire Chief Moriarty read the following to a crowded room at the Double Tree Hotel in Andover last month.
By: Fire Chief Moriarty – Feb. 2017
The Lawrence Fire Department has gone through some extensive changes in the last two years. We have had numerous retirements and many new hires amongst our ranks. We have changed the way we operate slightly, which has improved our safety, and the safety of our community, and for that I would like to recognize the neighboring communities of Andover and North Andover who have helped us so many times to protect our city. Thank you.
One of the divisions of the Lawrence Fire Department that has gone through an extensive amount of change is the fire prevention bureau. Not only are these folks busy reviewing plans and conducting inspections of residential and commercial properties, and are involved in our public education program, but they also are the members responsible for conducting investigations of fires. They are on call 24/7, 365 days a year, and there is always someone to respond, many times the whole team.
Fire prevention is, in my opinion, one of the most under-appreciated, yet overly taxes division in our, if not every fire department. Over the last 2 years they too, have gone through many changes. They are improving the inspection process with real time documentation, streamlined our permitting and are building a database that is far more helpful, current, and complete with building information than what we have not had in the past. They have taken an active role in our distressed properties task force, have chosen to stay in fire prevention and not just use it as a pit stop on the way to a fire suppression position.
In 2016, they have investigated more than 200 fires in the city. We had more than 66 working structure fires, 14 of which were multiple alarms. Arson is one of the most difficult crimes to prove. Many times the evidence has literally burned up. There are few witnesses, if any, so usually the investigation team is starting from scratch.
The fire investigators this past year have worked tirelessly with the Lawrence Police Department and the State Police Fire and Investigation Unit which is a division under the Massachusetts State Fire Marshall’s office. They have spent many hours interviewing people, reviewing hours of video tape, and that’s after searches to find these cameras from homeowners or commercial property owners. They have worked backwards from scenes following suspected paths of arsonists, and using their intuition and local knowledge, gaining names of suspects. They have spent late nights and long hours staking out areas and searching for these people. They, through their many hours of work, were able to arrest 14 people and charged them with arson in 2016.
This includes a woman who lit the 4 alarm fire on Summer St. which destroyed and damaged 6 different multi-family homes and affecting over 50 Lawrence residents. It includes an arsonist who lit many fires in South Lawrence, terrorizing the many elderly neighbors and residents of the neighborhood, and a man who, in one night, lit over eight different fires as he walked through the city. No witnesses, just a trail of destruction just as the woman who poured gasoline and lit it at the rear of a packed night club, threatening the lives of over a hundred people.
Because of their tireless efforts and dedication to duty, and to do the job right, not cutting corners or taking the easy way, we are here tonight to recognize: Captain James Driscoll , Lt. Paul Maccarone, Lt. Michael Armano and Firefighter Miguel Baez.