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Blaze Injures 'Hamp Man, 90 - Republican - 12/12/2006


Blaze injures 'Hamp man, 90

The cause of the fire, which caused an estimated half million dollars in damage, is still under investigation.

© The Republican Company .  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Republican Photo: Bob Stern

Northampton firefighters Daryl Springman, left, and Capt. Andrew Pelis look over the damage caused by a house fire on Northampton's Prospect Street yesterday morning.  Also in the bucket (not vivible) is State Trooper William Madelle of the Mass. State Police Crime Scene Services taking pictures of the damaged structure.

By NANCY H. GONTER; STAFF; The Republican

NORTHAMPTON - A 90-year-old man who used a medical alert system to summon authorities was left in critical condition after a fire in his Prospect Street home early yesterday morning.

Shortly after 2 a.m. yesterday, police and paramedics from the American Medical Response ambulance were called to the two-family home at 248 Prospect St. where Frank J. Labato lived on the first floor.

Alert One, the company providing him the medical alert service, had notified police and said an emergency had been signaled, but no one could be reached at the apartment, fire officials said.

Police and paramedics tried to enter the house, which is located at the corner of Prospect and Franklin streets, but were driven back by the heat and smoke, fire officials said.

When firefighters from the Florence fire station arrived, they quickly got into the building, found Labato unconscious on the living room floor and brought him out to ambulance personnel who were waiting just outside the front door, Deputy Chief David Gagne said. Labato was taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

The person who lived in the second-floor apartment was not at home at the time of the fire. One firefighter whom Gagne declined to identify suffered heat exhaustion and was treated and released from Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

The fire, which started in an area near the bathroom or kitchen, had probably been burning for 15 minutes before firefighters arrived and had spread quickly to the top floor because of the building's balloon construction, Gagne said. The cause is still under investigation.

Balloon construction means there are no fire stops in the walls. It is typical in older houses.

"It made its way up the walls and up into the attic," Gagne said.

It took about an hour to get the fire under control, the deputy chief said.

"Once it gets between the walls, it's hard to get to. You put water on it at one location and it goes to another location," he said.

Gagne estimated the total damage to the house at $500,000. The first and second floors were between 20 to 30 percent fire damaged, but the top floor was nearly destroyed, he said.

Firefighters from Williamsburg, Easthampton, Amherst, Westhampton and Hatfield responded to the scene, while firefighters from Hadley and Goshen assisted at Northampton fire stations.

(December 12, 2006)