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Articles Posted in FIre and Explosions

A massive fire destroyed a 264-unit luxury apartment complex in Waltham Massachusetts  last weekend. The 10-alarm blaze came only weeks after a similar fire destroyed a Dorchester apartment complex that was also under construction. The level of destruction – and the speed with which the fire spread through these buildings – has people questioning the safety of wood construction. Both buildings had wood frames, and both buildings were destroyed within a few hours.

When Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy was asked by a reporter whether she thought wood-frame construction should be permitted in MA, she said, “I really don’t believe so when it’s that size.” McCarthy went on to say that, “Within three hours, the whole building {in Waltham} was down.” She says she never supported having such a large complex in such a densely-populated area in the first place. Although wood construction is legal, McCarthy doesn’t think it’s safe. “It’s the cheap way out. And quite frankly, I thank god nobody got killed. They’ll say ‘oh, we can do this.’ Yeah you can, it’s whether you should be doing it,” she said.

In response to the apartment fires, Waltham city councilor Robert Logan is asking the state to take a closer look at the hazards of wood construction in larger building projects. “I’m not an expert in building, but I do know this. I haven’t seen any steel frame and concrete buildings go up in flames like a box of matches,” he said. But according to MA fire marshal Peter Ostroskey, wood-frame construction is perfectly safe once the building is completed; it’s during the building process – before the complex is fitted with sprinkler systems and smoke alarms – that it’s vulnerable to fire hazards. “We believe, ultimately, it is a safe type of construction to house people once it’s completed. It’s through that construction process these kinds of accidents can happen,” said Ostroskey. Further, wood-frame construction is legal in every state.

The Dorchester blaze destroyed a wood-frame complex near the Ashmont MBTA station on June 28. The cause of the Waltham fire remains under investigation. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if another’s negligence has caused you harm. Continue reading

Every year in Massachusetts, hundreds of gas line accidents are caused by contractors, construction workers, and utility companies. In addition to being extremely dangerous, these accidents are costly and can lead to closed roads and other problems. In 2015, an explosion in Springfield injured 18 people and damaged 42 buildings when a utility worker accidentally hit a high-pressure gas line. Unfortunately, these accidents occur with relative frequency. Although most incidents are contained, larger explosions can result in serious injuries and fatalities.

WWLP 22News launched an investigation into these accidents, reviewing state records and interviewing contractors and utility companies. The findings were shocking – between November 2012 and December 2015, a total of 1,434 gas line accidents were reported. That’s an average of more than one accident per day. Outside of Boston, Springfield and Chicopee had the highest reported number of accidents, with Springfield registering 48 and Chicopee registering 50. “There’s so many roads in Chicopee that are under construction, and more work being done, there’s more of an inherent chance that something might get hit,” said Mark Galerneau, Chicopee’s Fire Captain, “If the contractor is doing their due diligence and do what they’re supposed to do I think they can minimize the problems.”

The problem is, employers don’t always do their due diligence, and workers can suffer the consequences. If you have been injured due to employer negligence, it is in your best interest to consult with a MA work injury lawyer as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

Hundreds of Violations Discovered

According to state records, adequate precautions were not taken in 522 of the reported gas line accidents, and the lines were incorrectly marked or not properly maintained in 413 of the accidents. And in many cases, Dig Safe was never called. Dig Safe is a communication network that exists to notify utility companies when excavation work will be performed near their installations, and state law requires that individuals and companies performing excavations call Dig Safe prior to beginning work. Although Dig Safe training is not mandatory, following established laws is. Fines for violating these laws include:

  • First offense: $1,000
  • Second or subsequent offenses within a 12-month period: $5,000 to $10,000

Follow OSHA Regulations to Avoid Gas Line Explosions

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has established excavation requirements to protect workers from accidentally causing damage to underground gas lines. Prior to beginning any type of excavation, workers should:

  • Establish the location of underground gas lines.
  • Contact appropriate utility companies or property owners to establish exact location of underground gas lines.
  • If utility companies or property owners do not respond to the request within 24 hours, workers may proceed with caution with the assistance of detection equipment.
  • Use a safe and acceptable method to determine the exact location of gas lines.
  • When the gas line is located, it should be protected, supported, or removed as deemed necessary for the protection of workers and the local area.

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Many sports fans remember the tragedy shortly after the Fourth of July last year involving Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.  At a holiday cookout in his hometown of Deerfield Beach, Florida, Pierre-Paul and his friends were celebrating the day by setting off $1,100 worth of fireworks for the whole neighborhood.  They had passed several hours enjoying the firework show and decided they would call it a night.  One friend, however, pointed out that there were only a few fireworks left, so they might as well set off the last few, right?  Pierre-Paul grabbed one of the last fireworks and attempted to light the fuse seven times to no avail as the wind kept blowing out his lighter.  Pierre-Paul stated in an interview with Sports Illustrated that he remembered thinking Let me try one more time… The firework finally ignited and immediately there was a deafening BOOM and a blinding green light that witnesses say engulfed Pierre-Paul.  The firework had exploded in his hand.  Pierre-Paul was in shock.  He had been setting off his own fireworks for his neighborhood since he was 15 years old, and this kind of accident had never occurred.  After this accident, Pierre-Paul had to endure 8 surgeries total and a skin graft in an attempt to make his hand as operational as possible.  Several of the bones in his fingers needed to be removed, and his hand is visibly deformed.  He has since returned to the sport, but his returning season has been underwhelming when compared to his seasons before his accident.

This is a case in point as to how dangerous lighting fireworks can be, and with the Fourth of July right around the corner, it is essential that we all take precautions to prevent such accidents from occurring.  According to the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), more than 14,000 fireworks displays take place in the U.S. every fourth of the July.  The APA also estimates that backyard fireworks have more than doubled between 2000 and 2007, reaching 238 million pounds of fireworks.  “Backyard fireworks” are common but are extremely dangerous, even to those who have been setting them off for years.  Most people do not completely understand the potential risks they take when using consumer fireworks.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,400 people for firework related injuries in 2013, 55 percent of these injuries being to the extremities and 38 percent to the head.  Typically, rates of firework related injuries are highest among infants and teenagers.  Males are also more likely to be injured by fireworks than females.  However, it is important to remember that anyone can be injured by fireworks, even observers at a town firework show.  There are precautions you can take in order to prevent severe injury while using fireworks.  These safety tips include:

  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

In 2014, a deadly blaze in the Back Bay killed two firefighters and injured several others. The house fire, which was unintentionally caused by welders working at an adjacent building, quickly grew out of control due to high winds. Last week, Joseph Finn, Commissioner for the Boston Fire Department, held a press conference to release the results of an investigation conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). According to the NIOSH report, the 2014 accident was a result of a “perfect storm” of problems. Contact a Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Today.

The two firefighters killed in the Back Bay fire were 43-year-old Lt. Edward Walsh and 33-year-old Michael Kennedy. NIOSH’s report criticized the fire department for lack of training and inadequate staffing, both of which may have contributed to the accident’s devastating outcome. NIOSH also attributed the tragic outcome to high winds and the fact that firefighters were not notified in time. Several windows and doors were open at the time of the blaze, which allowed high winds to blow into the open spaces causing a backdraft. Fire consumes oxygen. If a fire has consumed all oxygen within a space and more oxygen suddenly becomes available (through an open door, window, or other opening), the explosive reaction is called a backdraft.

According to Finn, “People were literally blown off their feet.” Adding to the unfortunate events, water was cut off to the house when the fire burned through the hose lines.

The NIOSH report included a review of contributing factors, as well as several proposed fixes to prevent similar catastrophic events in the future. In response to the criticism from NIOSH, Finn said, “I’m OK with the critical part. I don’t take offense to it.” However, he also said that the department had recognized the need for additional training and had devoted more time to training in the two years preceding the fire than in the previous 10 years.

Not the First Time

Multiple high-profile cases in recent years have brought the Boston Fire Department under fire.

  • In 2009, a fatal fire truck crash was blamed on inadequate training when a BFD firefighter slammed into a building on Huntington Avenue.
  • Multiple fire trucks were cited for faulty brakes and other parts in 2009, resulting in several trucks being pulled out of service and the fire safety chief’s termination for absenteeism.
  • The flawed tactical decisions of BFD supervisors were to blame for the death of two firefighters in a 2007 West Roxbury restaurant blaze. Their actions resulted in a backdraft that sent a giant fireball through the building.

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A gas explosion inside of a New Braintree home has left one man seriously injured and investigators looking for more answers. At approximately 1:10 PM Wednesday afternoon, a fire occurred when a contractor was installing a propane-fueled furnace at a New Braintree residence, according to reports provided by a spokeswoman for the state fire marshal by the name of Jennifer Mieth.

Law enforcement officials responding to the scene have stated the preliminary investigation into the matter has provided them with a probable cause for the explosion. Based on the initial findings, investigators believe the fire was started when leaking propane became ignited by the hot water heater pilot. It was at this time that the explosion occurred, seriously injuring the contractor who had been tending to the furnace at the time. The man, who has yet to be identified by police officials, was airlifted by a medical hospital to a Boston-area hospital to receive treatment for his wounds. The nature and severity of his injuries was not made immediately available. Fire marshal spokeswoman Jennifer Mieth also stated that there was no one else inside the home located on 791 Wine Road in New Braintree at the time of the explosion and that with the unfortunate exception of the contractor, no one else had been injured at the time of the accident. Continue reading

Do you have a carbon monoxide monitor in your home? What about your vacation home? In the wake of a carbon monoxide related accident that has left four young people dead—it might be something you need to consider more seriously.

Four young residents of Massachusetts were staying at a family vacation home in Byron, Maine at the Coos Canyon Campground when they were discovered to be unresponsive on Friday night, July 17th. According to preliminary reports by investigators who arrived on scene, the residents visiting the cabin plugged a refrigerator into a backup generator located in the basement of the home and sometime after that, they all went to sleep. This occurred on Tuesday night—and it is presumed that the four victims passed away sometime during that night due to the poisonous, undetectable gas that escaped from the generator. Police responding to the call said that they could not immediately find a carbon monoxide detector anywhere inside of the cabin. They went on to say that if there had been a monitor located anywhere inside the home, it very likely would have saved their lives.

The four victims have been identified as 21 year old Brooke Wakelin from Attleboro, Massachusetts and her boyfriend, 23 year old Keith Norris also from Attleboro, Massachusetts. As well as 18 year old Matthew Wakelin, brother of victim Brooke Wakelin, and his 22 year old friend Deanna Lee Powers, both of whom are from Mansfield, Massachusetts. The father of Brooke and Matthew Wakelin, whose family owns the cabin, made the heartbreaking discovery on Friday when he made the trip up to Maine to find out why he had not heard from his kids since their arrival on Tuesday. Upon entering the residence, Mr. Wakelin discovered the bodies of his daughter Brooke and her boyfriend Keith in an upstairs bedroom, as well as the body of their pet beagle as well. He searched the downstairs bedrooms of the residence and further discovered the bodies of his son Matthew and his friend Deanna in separate rooms. Since the cabin did not have any electricity (which is what led the four victims to use the backup generator in the first place) Mr. Wakelin jumped onto a four-wheeler vehicle and drove immediately to a nearby cabin where he telephoned local police. Continue reading

The tragic deaths of two young boys from Lawrence several weeks ago, caused by a fast-moving electrical fire in their family’s apartment, marked the 47th and 48th fire fatalities in Massachusetts this year. With the first wave of winter weather this weekend, more and more residents are beginning to bundle up and turn on their homes’ heat and wood stoves. While residential fires naturally rise during this part of the year, often more common than fire emergencies are non-fire carbon monoxide emergencies. At Altman & Altman, we’d like to send out a reminder to all residents of the steps they can take to prevent such a tragic accident from occurring in their homes.

Facts and Statistics

Currently in Massachusetts the number of deaths caused by fire-related accidents, stands at 48. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the leading causes of residential fires include:

– Appliances and equipment; including those used for cooking and heating, washing machines and dryers, air conditioners and fans, and more.
– Arson and juvenile fire setting; children playing with fire and intentional fires – Candles – Chemicals and gases; natural gas and gases that might cause spontaneous combustion – Faulty electrical wiring – Holiday decorations including Christmas trees and holiday lights – Smoking materials (i.e.; cigarettes, hookah, etc.)
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A year after 22-year-old Binland Lee died in an Alston, MA apartment fire, her family is suing the landlord for her Boston wrongful death. Binland, a Boston University student, got trapped in her attic bedroom.

According to her loved ones, the landlord, Anna Belokurova, had rented Lee a bedroom in illegal apartment that had a faulty alarm system and not enough exits. Also named as Alton, MA wrongful death defendants are property owner Belokurova, Gateway Real Estate Group, two real estate brokers, and a real estate agent.

A Boston Globe Spotlight investigation reconstructed that tragic incident in April 2013. It reported ongoing problems of overcrowding at the building.

Elaine Yeskie has settled her Massachusetts wrongful death lawsuit against Anthony Baye, the man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the fatal fire that claimed the lives of her husband Paul Yeskie Sr. and son Paul Yeskie Jr. The two men died in 2012 in a blaze set by Baye at their home on a night when he started over a dozen fires.

Yeskie sought damages from Baye for the loss of her husband and son, as well as for the severe emotional trauma she experienced from witnessing their deaths. Her son Paul Jr. had autism.

The widow claims that the two men experienced conscious pain and suffering as they were fatally burned while trying to escape there home. Yeskie and another woman managed to flee the blaze.

On a single Saturday, two house fires broke out in Springfield, both due to electrical and heating appliances left unattended. On the morning of August 9th at 653 State St, a fire started in a bedroom of an apartment complex, when an electric iron was heated and left unattended on a bed, blazing the bed sheets and mattress before spreading into the rest of the room. Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant said that when they arrived, “the room was gutted by flames.” The family whose apartment caught on fire and a neighboring family were evacuated from the complex.

On Saturday also but in the afternoon another fire was reported at the apartment complex on 119 Ashley St. The residents left a curling iron on, which then burned through the counter and set fire to the bathroom. Damages are estimated at $10,000 and $15,000. No injuries were reported, though the two occupants were displaced to a different apartment complex.

The two similar incidents remind us all to be wary of potential fire hazards at our homes. Unfortunately, house fires are very common in the United States. Between 2007 and 2011, the National Fire Protection Agency reported 366,600 house fires. The resulting financial and personal consequences cannot be ignored. During this time frame, on average, seven people died in U.S. home fires every day; indeed, most fire-related deaths happen at home.
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