Firefighters blame budget cuts for death of woman
HAVERHILL, Mass. (WHDH) -- There are two sides to every story.
Haverhill firefighters say Mayor James Fiorentini’s budget cuts caused the death of 84-year-old Phyllis Lamot early Wednesday morning after a fire ravaged a three-family home.
“Because of the reduction in manpower in Haverhill that the mayor instituted 10 days ago, there was no rescue team to go and search for her,” said Edward Kelly, the president of the Massachusetts Firefighters Association.
The blaze broke out just after midnight. Neighbors heard a massive explosion and saw the front of the home collapse.
“When we came outside one of the electrical wires actually let go from the house. It sparked everywhere, landed on one of the cars and then the porch dropped right off the house,” said Pattie Costa, who lives next door and was evacuated from her home during the fire.
The wire actually fell on a fire hose and destroyed it, forcing firefighters to pull another hose around the building. The city says that and a delay in calling 911 added to the deadly tragedy, not a reduction in manpower, like firefighters claim.
“The initial fire attack attempts to get into the building with the firefighters and all of their gear they were unable to get into the apartment…because of the heavy fire conditions,” said Chief Richard Borden of the Haverhill Fire Department.
“None of our guys go in there by themselves. That is dangerous. So they had to wait for other crews to come here to perform a search and rescue, which couldn’t be done,” said Greg Roberts, president of the Haverhill Firefighters Union.
The victim’s son, hearing his mother could have been rescued, walked away from the scene heartbroken. Meanwhile, the community is left to come to grips with a loss that will continue to haunt firefighters and the city.
Lamot’s family said that she was an amazing person; she was a great grandmother that will be sorely missed.
The fire chief says the manpower reduction is temporary. He expects staffing to return to normal by the summer.
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