Dudley St. fire./ AFD photo43 Dudley St. fire. / AFD photo

'Mayday' called as firefighter falls through floor, then keeps working

UPDATED: An Arlington firefighter fell through the floor while battling a blaze that ripped through a mixed-use building, which includes the Bike Stop.

No cause or dollar estimate are yet known for the alarm at 43 Dudley St., called in at 11 p.m. Wednesday, May 10, Fire Chief Kevin Kelley told YourArlington. But he wrote in response to queries: "Significant fire, smoke and water damage to 50% of building."

Flames were difficult to extinguish at the building housing Piggott Electric, Arlington Automotive Machine and the Bike Stop, a well-known spot along the Minuteman Bikeway. See the video report from NBC Boston >> 

Reportedly started in storage area

The Boston Globe reported that the blaze began in a storage area above the bike shop.

Video from the scene shows heavy fire shooting from the building and black smoke billowing into the air as crews battled and poured water on the flames for hours.

Photo by Wendy Richter shows flames and smoke as seen from the nearby Brattle Drive Apartments.

After firefighters entered the building, one crew reported that the stairwell and floor in the back of the building had partially collapsed, according to scanner recordings posted on Broadcastify. About three minutes later, a crew reported that a firefighter had fallen after the floor collapsed.

“We’ve got a firefighter through the floor,” one firefighter called out over the radio, The Globe reported. “Mayday, mayday, mayday, firefighter through the floor,” another called out. “Engine 2 is working on getting him out now.”

Firefighter uninjured 

The firefighter, identified in the Globe report as Lt. Neil Duggan, a 10-year veteran of the department, went through the floor but was not injured and continued to work to put out the blaze, Kelley said.

Kelley told The Globe that the firefighter fell through the floor up to his waist but with help from others in his crew was able to pull himself out. “He was able to extricate himself, and he was fine,” Kelley said. “The Mayday probably lasted a minute.”

Moments later, firefighters were ordered out of the building because of the dangerous conditions.

No other injuries were reported. No residents were displaced.

“I want to commend the women and men of the Arlington Fire [Department] for their swift response in suppressing this stubborn fire,” said Kelley in a statement posted by the town May 11. “We also want to thank Arlington Police Department and regional fire companies for their assistance.”

The Arlington units responding were C1, C2, C4, C5, Engine 1, Engine 2, Engine 3, Ladder 1 and Rescue 1.

3 alarms

The fire drew three alarms. Fire companies from Belmont, Cambridge, Lexington, Medford, Somerville, Winchester and Woburn, as well as Armstrong Ambulance and Boston Sparks, were on scene offering assistance. Arlington Police Departmet provided traffic and crowd control.

The fire was declared extinguished at about 2 a.m. May 11.

The fire did not damage homes in this area, Kelley said in the town statement. 

Minuteman Bikeway closure 

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, officials said. The Minuteman Community Bikeway in the vicinity of Dudley Street was closed through the evening of  May 11 as a result of this fire and the ensuing investigation, the town reported.

This news summary was published Thursday, May 11, 2023, based on information from media outlets, the Town of Arlington and YourArlington. It was updated later that day to add photographs, details provided by the local fire chief, a Boston Globe report and a town announcement about the Minuteman Bikeway.