Skip to content




ASHBURNHAM — After the town’s newest fire engine was damaged in an early January crash, the Shirley Fire Department lent the department an engine while its pumper tanker is repaired.

How long it will take to mend the apparatus is unknown, said Fire Chief James Cleveland.

“It depends on when they take it apart, how extensive the damage is. I don’t anticipate seeing it for another few months,” said Cleveland.

The “pumper tanker” — an apparatus capable of holding thousands of gallons of water for use in emergencies — is the town’s newest apparatus and was damaged en route to a Jan. 3 laundry room fire that occurred on Russell Hill Road.

The homeowner reported that he believed the fire was already extinguished, but wanted the fire department to investigate, according to an accident report written by Detective Robert V. Siano.

A short time after the call came through, Deputy Chief Robert Plant reported that “Engine 3” was out of service.

Plant was uninjured and standing outside the engine with its driver, firefighter Hilary Towne, who appeared upset but uninjured when Siano responded to the crash, which took place on Central Street near Willard Road.

At the scene, Siano spoke briefly with Towne, who said she was navigating around a corner when and felt the rear of the truck slide to the right and travel off the roadway before stopping on Central Street.

The engine was traveling north when it slid off of the road, traveled about 53 feet then hit a utility pole that toppled over and pulled down wires, according to the report.

Siano assessed the condition of the roadway. He found that the northbound lane appeared to be slick but noted the Highway Department had spread salt on the road “just prior to my arrival.” No ice was visible on the northbound lane, the report said.

Firefighter John Scofield and Deputy Plant were riding in the engine with Towne when it crashed. Neither reported being uncomfortable with Towne’s driving, according to the report.

Plant said he felt the engine hit a bump “like hitting a snowbank” while rounding the corner, according to the report.

Siano interviewed Towne, who has 20 years experience driving fire apparatus, according to the report. The engine’s “jake brake” was on its maximum setting, the “position that slows the truck the most without manually engaging the brakes,” according to the report.

Towne said she slowed down as she began to turn right on Central Street past Pleasant Street, but then felt the back of the truck sliding. She told Siano she turned the steering wheel toward the direction the apparatus was sliding. Towne said she did not look at the speedometer.

“I was focusing on keeping the truck on the roadway and upright,” according to the report.

A data recorder in the engine captured information about its speed at the time of the crash. The data showed the engine left the station at 11:28 a.m., according to the report.

Towne was driving 45 mph when she began to loose control. She braked one second later. Six second after that, the truck was traveling at a speed of 18 mph, according to the report.

Detective Siano concluded that several factors contributed to the crash. He said in his report that the engine was traveling at a “greater than reasonable speed” when it began to slide, according to the report.

Moisture on the roadway may have also made the pavement more slippery, he said. Finally, when Towne felt the engine sliding, she “may have applied too much brake, causing the truck to skid more severely” and “swing into the utility pole.”

The Shirley fire engine being used by the department is also a “pumper tanker,” said Cleveland, adding that Ashburnham operates three engines.

Town Administrator Heather Budrewicz confirmed that the damaged apparatus is insured with a deductible of about $2,500.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.