As we celebrate a new year today, others look back to this day last year.
The Holyoke New Year’s Day fire brought the community to rally around the residents who lost everything but also brought criticism and controversy, such as city codes that allowed the building to not have sprinklers due to its age, failure of the monitoring system to alert the fire department of the fire and a focus on an engine that did not respond on New Year’s Day.
Three people lost their lives and 49 residents lost everything.
Western Mass News investigated the building’s records, which showed it was likely built in 1905 and was not required to have a sprinkler system under Massachusetts state law.
Something Holyoke Fire Chief Pond said could have made a difference.
Further, the system that would notify the fire department of a fire wasn’t functioning on New Year’s Day, something Mayor Morse spoke with Western Mass News about after this discovery.
“If the fire department had got the call from the monitored system that was functioning, they could have done more with proper notice.”
Engine 1 was the first to respond to the scene while Engine 2 remained at the station, due to an industry practice known as “browning out.”
That is when an engine is taken out of service to save money to avoid bringing in off duty firefighters when staffing is thin.
The day of the fire, we asked Holyoke’s Fire Chief Pond about Engine 2.
“Engine 2 was browned out yesterday. No, it did not affect the response to this fire. We responded effectively to this fire within a minute. I think the biggest flaw was a delay in the calling of this fire.”
Something that Lt. Chad Cunningham, the head of the local Firefighters Union disagreed with.
“It may or may not have assisted with the lives lost, but it certainly didn’t help in the ability to search the building.
Since then, Fire Chief Pond has disputed Cunningham’s comments.
The Fire Commission later demoted Lt. Cunningham suspended him for his response to the fire.
Something Cunningham's representatives have called a witch hunt.
An empty lot now remains at 106 North East Street.
The Holyoke Fire Department grieves alongside the entire Holyoke community. We are so fortunate to live in a city which has a long history of pulling together in difficult times,” said Fire Chief Pond.
The Holyoke Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund established for victims raised $100,000 for all those impacted one year ago today.
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