By Rob Mills

and Marisa Donelan


SHIRLEY — The brother of the woman seriously injured in Sunday morning’s fire on Phoenix Street said Monday his sister is a recently widowed mother of three.

Fred Healy, of Westford, identified the woman firefighters pulled from the blaze as his sister, Patricia LeBlanc, and said she is in critical condition.

LeBlanc’s husband died in February, Healy said.

“She’s had a real tough road,” he said.

Healy said LeBlanc’s daughters — who are young, from elementary-aged to teenagers — are staying with family members.

Healy did not elaborate on the severity of LeBlanc’s injuries, and could only speak briefly because he was busy keeping his family updated on LeBlanc’s condition at the hospital.

Shirley fire officials confirmed her identity Monday evening, and said on Sunday she is 46 years old.

“She’s hanging in there … her injuries were very serious, critical,” said Fire Chief Dennis Levesque.

State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said an investigation into the cause of the fire is still ongoing, but said Monday night, “There is no reason to believe the fire is suspicious.”

Coan said investigators believe the blaze began on the building’s porch, and they are considering “several accidental issues” that could have contributed to its start. He did not say how many people were displaced by the fire.

Shirley Fire Capt. Joe Hawthorne, a three-decade veteran of the department, lives near the apartment building at 18 Phoenix St. that went up in flames, and heard his pager go off just after 2 a.m. Sunday, he told reporters.

Hawthorne ran without gear into the burning building and pulled LeBlanc out, using her yells for help to guide him. He and Police Sgt. Peter Violette and Officer Sammy Santiago covered her burns with snow until medical help arrived.

Firefighters from Shirley, Leominster, Ayer and Devens fought the blaze while Lunenburg and Fitchburg crews provided coverage for the Shirley station.

Levesque said the fire is being investigated by the state Fire Marshal’s office and State Police. He said Sunday the fire rendered the building uninhabitable.

“It’s the largest fire we’ve had in quite a while,” he said Monday.

Levesque said things went back to business as usual Monday, and said the rescuers’ quick action to bring the woman from the building came from their instincts as public-safety workers.

“It’s just another day on the job,” the chief said.