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Fire captain, police officers commended for actions at fire scene

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SHIRLEY – Letters of commendation have been sent to Fire Capt. Joseph Hawthorne and two Shirley police officers, Sgt. Peter Violette and Officer Sammy Santiago, said Selectmen Chairman Andy Deveau, who read the letters at the Dec. 7 meeting.

The three men were recognized for decisive actions at the scene of an early morning fire at 18 Phoenix Street on Sunday, Dec. 6.

“Without personal protection (firefighting gear) the three men went upstairs to get a person trapped inside,” Deveau said. “Your actions saved her life,” he continued. “Job well done.”

The injured woman is being treated at Mass General Hospital in Boston, Selectman Enrico Cappucci said.

The alarm went out at 2:08 a.m. “I got a call at 3 a.m.” Cappucci said. He called Deveau and both of them headed to the fire, he said.

What they saw there gave him added respect for the work firefighters and police do on a regular basis, Deveau said.

“When you see a burning house at 3 in the morning and how that controlled chaos is handled, you know every one of these guys is a trained professional,” he said. “They all deserve credit for what they do.”

The structure was completely destroyed, with only the charred shell still standing. The building inspector wants it torn down this week, Deveau said.

But the owner of the building, whose responsibility it is to pay for the tear-down, isn’t local. Deveau said the building is owned by a mortgage company in Texas, which apparently purchased it from a Pennsylvania bank in a foreclosure sale.

Conversations with the owners and attorneys who handled the transaction are in progress, and a local Realtor took photos to send to them. But Deveau said it’s not wise to hold off on the tear-down. “It’s a public safety hazard,” he said. Instead, the town could hire someone to demolish the house, pay for it from the MCI prison account and attach a lien to the property to get the money back.

Town Administrator Kyle Keady said the demolition cost estimate is $20,000 and that three firms are interested in the job.

“The building inspector has issued an emergency tear-down” order, Deveau said. “It’s too damaged to secure.”

The emergency demolition order trumps the bid process, but work can only start after the Mass state police and State Fire Marshall wrap their investigations. Troopers were on scene with accelerant-detecting dogs, Deveau said, and the Fire Marshall was at the site Sunday morning.

That report is pending, he said. “We may not be able to touch it” until the investigations are complete.

In the meantime, the house has been cordoned off with snow fencing and No Trespassing signs have been erected on the property.

“It’s off limits,” Deveau said.