For Immediate Release
Friday, April 13, 2018
Media Contact: John Guilfoil
Amesbury Fire Rescue Department
Kenneth E. Berkenbush, Chief
17 School Street
Amesbury, MA 01913
AMESBURY — The extensive and pervasive fire and EMS mutual aid network in this region was on full display Friday morning as dozens of residents at the Merrimack Valley Health Center nursing home had to be relocated after a fire broke out at the facility.
Amesbury Fire Chief Kenneth E. Berkenbush is today praising the facility’s staff, firefighters from 11 departments in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Amesbury Police, Atlantic Ambulance and Northeast Emergency Medical Services Massachusetts Region III for their immediate response to the fire.
At 9:39 a.m., the Amesbury Fire Department responded to a 911 call and fire alarm activation from 22 Maple St. The first arriving firefighters observed a moderate smoke condition on the first floor of the east side of the building. Amesbury Fire subsequently struck a box alarm, which calls in off-duty firefighters and initiates the mutual aid process.
Chief Berkenbush, working in close collaboration with health center staff and Northeast EMS Region 3 Executive Director Jonathan Brickett, initiated a shelter in place of all 105 residents, moving everyone to the west side of the building, which is separated from the east side by a fire wall and fire doors. A complete evacuation of the building would have been unsafe given the lack of mobility experience by many of the facility’s residents and the facility’s location at the top of a steep hill.
Firefighters subsequently struck a second and third alarm simultaneously in order to make mutual aid available to facilitate the shelter in place process and assist in firefighting efforts. Multiple ambulances were called to the scene as a precaution, and nearby hospitals were ordered to stand by. However, no injuries were reported.
A preliminary investigation revealed that a fan connected to the HVAC system on the first floor malfunctioned and began to burn insulation. The fire was extinguished using dry chemical fire extinguishers, and the building did not suffer any structural damage. Firefighters remained on scene after the flames were put down in order to ventilate the building.
Due to the loss of electrical power, firefighters used a special stretcher to bring one patient down two flights of stairs in order for them to make it to a dialysis appointment off-site.
Mutual aid was provided by fire departments in Salisbury, West Newbury, Merrimac and Newburyport from Massachusetts, as well as Kingston, East Kingston, Exeter, South Hampton, Seabrook and Brentwood from New Hampshire. Atlantic Ambulance also provided assistance.
“This was a smooth, well-coordinated response that would not have been possible without the highly cooperative effort by numerous departments and agencies,” Chief Berkenbush said. “The mutual aid network we share with all of our surrounding communities helped ensure that everyone remained calm and avoided injury during this incident and I want to thank them for their consistent support.”
The fire is under investigation by the Amesbury Fire Department and the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal’s Office.