Video: Committee on Public Safety, 11/10/09; Meadowbrook Firefighting Questioned and Defended

Here is a video of the complete 11/10/09 meeting of the Northampton City Council’s Committee on Public Safety. This video is 2 hours 24 minutes long and was recorded by Adam Cohen. Starting at 0:13:50, most of the meeting is devoted to the subject of the fire that claimed building 21 of the Meadowbrook apartment complex on April 13, 2009. Several citizens including former city councilor Mike Kirby questioned the performance of the Fire Department in attacking the fire. The firefighters defended their performance.

The owner of Meadowbrook, Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), was also criticized by citizens for the state of the electrical wiring on the site, numerous false fire alarms and lack of responsiveness to complaints.

The Committee on Public Safety expressed satisfaction with the Fire Department’s performance but plans to inquire with POAH as to conditions at the complex.


Here are pictures exhibited by those critical of the way the fire was fought, starting with an aerial view of the site:

See also:

Gazette: “Apartment fire: Meadowbrook tenants, fire department at odds over fire response” (11/14/09)
…Fire Chief Brian Duggan said members of his department have grown accustomed in recent years to a degree of suspicion from the community beyond Meadowbrook, because of misconceptions they reacted slowly and ineffectively to fires at Meadowbrook and elsewhere.

“You get continual negative reinforcement and criticism,” Duggan said. “That takes a toll.”

One member of the department told the committee and audience he takes the criticism personally.

“I find it offensive that you attack the integrity of our rank and file,” said Capt. Jon Davine…

Nutt, who lost all her possessions and her cat in the blaze, described her smoke alarm going off whenever she turned on her bathroom light. She said problems like this were never properly addressed by management.

“Maybe some people believe it’s OK to allow low standards for low-income housing, but I do not,” she said…

…it’s beyond the city’s authority, Patillo said, to force upgrades in existing Meadowbrook buildings, which do not have sprinklers…

The Fire Department responds to an average of 90 calls at Meadowbrook every year, according to Chief Duggan.

Springfield Republican: “Meadowbrook Apartments fire in Northampton leaves 21 homeless” (4/13/09)

Gazette: “Duggan gets 5 more years” (11/10/09)
Mayor Clare Higgins re-appointed Fire Chief Brian P. Duggan to another five-year term nine months before his current contract was set to expire.

“The goal was to keep him another five years,” Higgins said, when asked of the timing of the re-appointment…

Duggan was hired by former Mayor Mary L. Ford in 1998 at age 34 after serving for nearly a decade as fire chief in Northborough. Higgins later reappointed him to a five-year term…

In addition to his full-time job, Duggan also serves as a public safety advisor for Municipal Resources, Inc. a New Hampshire consulting firm that provides technical and management support to municipalities.

Kirby on the Loose: “When firemen have to watch buildings burn down: a second posting on the Meadowbrook fire” (7/28/09)

Mike Kirby: “The Meadowbrook Chronicles Part One” (6/21/08)
For some time, a number of tenants and former tenants of Meadowbrook have been after me to write something about the housing complex and the agency that runs it. As you may remember, a 2004 agreement preserved the development as affordable. Brokered by the Mayor, this deal sold the development to the Boston-based nonprofit, Preservation of Affordable Housing, LLC (POAH). I was given a couple hundred pages from their tenant union archives, and bundles of documents relating to the complex. The stories in this paperwork were disturbing and depressing…the 2005 flood of sewage that forced the evacuation of many residents, the tenant union folding under attack, and complaints about living conditions, drug dealing and other matters falling on seemingly deaf ears.

Kirby on the Loose: “Not their finest hour: Questions raised by neighbors in the Shepherd’s Hollow blaze” (8/17/08)