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Chief praises aid in fatal blaze, says it 'could have been worse'

Arlington Fire Department patch

Following the fatal four-alarm blaze at Brookside Condominiums in East Arlington on Tuesday, May 5, the fire chief says that "without the great efforts of the Arlington firefighters and the Arlington police, it could have been much worse."

Chief Robert J. Jefferson has commended all who assisted, and that is quite a list.

In a May 11 memo to Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Jefferson acknowledges the loss of a life and then praises those who assisted at this fire. Here is the complete text of the memo:

"On Tuesday May 5, 2015 at approximately 4:00 am dispatch received a call for a house fire at Brookside Condos. The first fire units on scene found the rear of the complex fully involved in fire and proceeded to take an aggressive offensive attack on the fire hoping to knock down the heavy fire.

"A second alarm was struck bringing out of town fire companies to the scene. Due to the intense nature and size of the fire, third and fourth alarms were struck within the first 20 minutes of the fire.

"While all this was developing our, 911 dispatchers were alerting Arlington Police, Arlington DPW, Arlington Auxiliary Fire, N-Star, National Grid, AFD Fire Investigation Unit, Arlington Fire mechanics, Armstrong Ambulance to the scene and mutual aid coverage to our stations. Fire companies from all over responded to the scene and Fire companies from other communities covered the town.

"The APD took complete control of the scene perimeter, providing both crowd control and citizen safety, and the DPW reviewed water supply, hydrant location and made sure we had whatever resources we needed. Armstrong Ambulance provided medical assistance to a victim as well as setting up a rehab area for the firefighters providing water and hydration fluids.

"I bring all this to your attention because this shows the amount of resources needed during these types of incidents.

"Here is a list of the departments and agencies that responded to this fire and what it took to mitigate what could have been a much worse outcome:

• All Arlington Fire apparatus and personnel as well as AFD personnel called back
• Arlington Fire mechanics
• Arlington Police - Most on duty officers and call back, C1B, Chief [Fred] Ryan
• Arlington 911 Dispatchers and Metro Fire Dispatch
• Arlington DPW -Water and Sewer
• Arlington Emergency Management personnel -- Air Supply and Lighting unit
• Arlington Health and Human Services
• Armstrong Ambulance -- BLS units, ALS units, Special Services Units and Supervisors
• State Police - Patrol units, Arson Investigators, CPAC unit
• District Attorney Marion Ryan
• Department of Fire Services -- Rehab/Command Center
• Department of Fire services -- Fire Marshal [Stephen] Coan, Deputy Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey
• Medford Fire -- Ladder 1, Engine 2
• Somerville Fire -- Ladder 3, Engine 6, District Chief
• Cambridge Fire -- Engine 4, Squad 4, Assistant Chief, Engine 5 covering HQ
• Waltham Fire -- Engine 2
• Belmont Fire -- Engine 2, C1, C2
• Winchester Fire -- Engine 4
• Metro Fire -- Weston Fire Air Supply unit
• Boston Fire Sparks Club rehab unit - water, hydration and food
• Boston Fire Engine 51, District 11 Chief
• American Red Cross Disaster Assistance
• MBTA - Two buses for residents

"I mention all these agencies, and probably a few I missed, to show the amount of resources that were on scene and needed to mitigate the incident.

"With all these resources working through the Incident Command System and a Unified Command structure, I can report that operations for this incident were well managed.

"I would like to acknowledge and thank the assistance provided to my department from all internal and external agencies. But I must recognize all of the town employees who responded. In particular, Fire, Police and DPW were instrumental in controlling and mitigating this incident. I am proud to work amongst such dedicated employees from the Management level down through all rank and file. You are lucky to have these employees."

May 5, 2015: Man, 47, identified as victim in condo blaze

The improper disposal of smoking materials onto mulch near a condominium building is believed to have caused the fatal fire, officials said in a statement.

Officials said Wai Cheong Lee, 47, died after the fast-moving flames trapped him inside his unit.

Donations for Brookside Condominium fire victims

Thanks to the Housing Corporation of Arlington (HCA) for setting up a fund for those affected by the May 5 fire at Brookside Condominiums. When making a donation, please be sure to note in the "Designation (Optional)" field "Fire." Funds collected will go to assist those displaced by the fire. You can make your donation here.

Pam Hallett, Precinct 21 member and head of the HCA, said 15 families are affected.

May 5: Leader Bank offers no-interest loans

This report was published Tuesday, May 12, 2015.

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