[Hpn] Makeshift haven for homeless catches fire

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Tue, 04 Dec 2007 15:18:31 -0500


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http://www.salemnews.com/punews/local_story_338094121?page=3D0

December 04, 2007          =20

Makeshift haven for homeless catches fire

By Bruno Matarazzo Jr. , Staff writer
Salem News




PEABODY - Firefighters had a tough time yesterday battling a blaze at a =
shuttered Main Street gas station known as a gathering place for the =
local homeless population.=20

No one was injured in the two-alarm fire that broke out at 5:45 p.m. at =
the long-closed Souza's gas station at Main and Howley streets, but =
their efforts were stymied by a number of difficulties that firefighters =
had to deal with at the scene near the Salem city line.=20

"The first hydrant they (tried) was dead - boom - it was frozen ... I =
doubt it," Peabody fire Capt. Jay Dowling said. "It was probably a dead =
hydrant. So we had a couple issues with getting hydrants ready."

In addition, firefighters had to contend with tanks of acetylene - used =
for welding and cutting - inside the main building, but none of the =
containers exploded.=20

Fire Chief Steve Pasdon said the gas is highly flammable and explosive =
material that should not have been in the building.=20

"I know that we have been doing a lot of inspecting down at this place," =
Pasdon said. "They did do a lot of cleanup, and we do know they had some =
acetylene tanks."

The chief added the owners have done a lot of cleanup on the property =
over the years, removing a number of barrels and tanks stored at the =
building.=20

Dowling said there were also open manhole covers in the rear of the =
building, but no firefighters were injured.=20

The fire destroyed one of the three buildings on the 174 Main St. =
property, which will soon be turned into a CVS pharmacy. A second =
building on the property that is attached to the destroyed structure =
sustained damage to a connecting wall.

The third building, on the front of the property on Main Street, was not =
damaged.=20

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the rear garage area of =
the gas station and knock down the fire after more than two hours. =
Firefighters had two extended ladders from ladder trucks directing water =
on the 50-by-100-foot building along with additional hoses around the =
property.=20

One benefit firefighters had was the direction of the wind, which blew =
smoke away from a neighboring vacant building.=20

"They did a fabulous job here," Pasdon said. "When I got here, I =
expected this whole building to be going."=20

However, the firefighters' work still isn't done, since holes in the =
floor and a collapsed roof prevented them from doing an extensive search =
of the damaged building to see if any homeless people were inside, =
Dowling said.=20




Residents who live near the vacant gas station said the property is a =
hangout for local homeless people, especially during the winter.

On Jan. 26 last year, Stephen K. Koech, a homeless man, froze to death =
in the same area when temperatures plummeted to around 1 degree.=20

And firefighters suspect homeless people are back on the property.=20

On Friday, firefighters responded to the property for a barrel fire in =
the rear of the building, Dowling said.=20

Dowling said there was no one around when firefighters arrived.=20

Randy Cole of Peabody, who frequents the nearby McDonald's after work to =
get coffee, said he often sees homeless people walking behind the =
building carrying cases of beer.=20

Leo Higgins, a retired city public services employee, was out walking =
his dog, Mike, yesterday morning when he heard men hollering.

He walked down a driveway/access road and saw a group of men on a =
loading platform.=20

"They said, 'Oh, I thought you were somebody else,'" Higgins said. "I =
told the police."

Investigators from the Peabody Fire Department and the State Fire =
Marshal's Office were expected to stay at the property during the night =
to determine how the fire started.
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<P><SPAN class=3Ddate><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2><A=20
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<P><SPAN class=3Ddate>December 04, =
2007&nbsp;</SPAN>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<!-- icons --><SPAN><A=20
href=3D"http://www.salemnews.com/punews/local_story_338094121/resources_p=
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<SPAN></SPAN></SPAN><!-- icons --></P>
<P class=3Dstoryheadline>Makeshift haven for homeless catches =
fire</P><SPAN=20
class=3Dstorycredit>By Bruno Matarazzo Jr. , Staff =
writer</SPAN><BR><SPAN>Salem=20
News</SPAN><BR>
<P><SPAN>
<DIV class=3Dpage0 id=3Dstorydisplay>
<P class=3Dbreadcrumbs><A class=3Dview=20
href=3D"http://www.salemnews.com/punews/local_story_338094121?page=3D1"><=
/A>&nbsp;</P>
<DIV class=3Dpage id=3Dpage1 style=3D"DISPLAY: block">PEABODY - =
Firefighters had a=20
tough time yesterday battling a blaze at a shuttered Main Street gas =
station=20
known as a gathering place for the local homeless population. <BR><BR>No =
one was=20
injured in the two-alarm fire that broke out at 5:45 p.m. at the =
long-closed=20
Souza's gas station at Main and Howley streets, but their efforts were =
stymied=20
by a number of difficulties that firefighters had to deal with at the =
scene near=20
the Salem city line. <BR><BR>"The first hydrant they (tried) was dead - =
boom -=20
it was frozen ... I doubt it," Peabody fire Capt. Jay Dowling said. "It =
was=20
probably a dead hydrant. So we had a couple issues with getting hydrants =

ready."<BR><BR>In addition, firefighters had to contend with tanks of =
acetylene=20
- used for welding and cutting - inside the main building, but none of =
the=20
containers exploded. <BR><BR>Fire Chief Steve Pasdon said the gas is =
highly=20
flammable and explosive material that should not have been in the =
building.=20
<BR><BR>"I know that we have been doing a lot of inspecting down at this =
place,"=20
Pasdon said. "They did do a lot of cleanup, and we do know they had some =

acetylene tanks."<BR><BR>The chief added the owners have done a lot of =
cleanup=20
on the property over the years, removing a number of barrels and tanks =
stored at=20
the building. <BR><BR>Dowling said there were also open manhole covers =
in the=20
rear of the building, but no firefighters were injured. <BR><BR>The fire =

destroyed one of the three buildings on the 174 Main St. property, which =
will=20
soon be turned into a CVS pharmacy. A second building on the property =
that is=20
attached to the destroyed structure sustained damage to a connecting=20
wall.<BR><BR>The third building, on the front of the property on Main =
Street,=20
was not damaged. <BR><BR>Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to =
the rear=20
garage area of the gas station and knock down the fire after more than =
two=20
hours. Firefighters had two extended ladders from ladder trucks =
directing water=20
on the 50-by-100-foot building along with additional hoses around the =
property.=20
<BR><BR>One benefit firefighters had was the direction of the wind, =
which blew=20
smoke away from a neighboring vacant building. <BR><BR>"They did a =
fabulous job=20
here," Pasdon said. "When I got here, I expected this whole building to =
be=20
going." <BR><BR>However, the firefighters' work still isn't done, since =
holes in=20
the floor and a collapsed roof prevented them from doing an extensive =
search of=20
the damaged building to see if any homeless people were inside, Dowling =
said.=20
<BR><BR></DIV>
<DIV class=3Dpage id=3Dpage2 style=3D"DISPLAY: block"><BR><BR>Residents =
who live near=20
the vacant gas station said the property is a hangout for local homeless =
people,=20
especially during the winter.<BR><BR>On Jan. 26 last year, Stephen K. =
Koech, a=20
homeless man, froze to death in the same area when temperatures =
plummeted to=20
around 1 degree. <BR><BR>And firefighters suspect homeless people are =
back on=20
the property. <BR><BR>On Friday, firefighters responded to the property =
for a=20
barrel fire in the rear of the building, Dowling said. <BR><BR>Dowling =
said=20
there was no one around when firefighters arrived. <BR><BR>Randy Cole of =

Peabody, who frequents the nearby McDonald's after work to get coffee, =
said he=20
often sees homeless people walking behind the building carrying cases of =
beer.=20
<BR><BR>Leo Higgins, a retired city public services employee, was out =
walking=20
his dog, Mike, yesterday morning when he heard men hollering.<BR><BR>He =
walked=20
down a driveway/access road and saw a group of men on a loading =
platform.=20
<BR><BR>"They said, 'Oh, I thought you were somebody else,'" Higgins =
said. "I=20
told the police."<BR><BR>Investigators from the Peabody Fire Department =
and the=20
State Fire Marshal's Office were expected to stay at the property during =
the=20
night to determine how the fire =
started.</DIV></DIV></SPAN></DIV></BODY></HTML>

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