Firefighters in Webster used ladders to save woman, two children from burning home 

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  • Firefighters from several towns, including Concord, responded to a house fire in Webster on Feb. 24, 2021. —Courtesy of Jay Heath

  • Concord fire Capt. Mick Costello passes a 4-year-old boy to the awaiting medical first responders. Courtesy of Jay Heath

  • Firefighters from several towns, including Concord, responded to a house fire in Webster on Feb. 24, 2021. —Courtesy of Jay Heath

  • Firefighters from several towns, including Concord, responded to a house fire in Webster on Feb. 24, 2021. —Courtesy of Jay Heath

  • Firefighters from several towns, including Concord, responded to a house fire in Webster on Feb. 24, 2021. —Courtesy of Jay Heath

  • Firefighters enter a Webster home that was on fire Wednesday. Courtesy of Jay Heath

  • Firefighters from several towns, including Concord, responded to a house fire in Webster on Feb. 24, 2021. —Courtesy of Jay Heath

  • Firefighters from several towns, including Concord, assist residents out of a home that was on fire Wednesday. Courtesy of Jay Heath

  • A Concord firefighter works to rescue one of the three people trapped inside a house fire in Webster Wednesday. A woman and two children were saved and taken to Concord Hospital for treatment. Jay Heath

Monitor columnist
Published: 2/25/2021 4:20:09 PM

Captain Mick Costello, the training officer for the Concord Fire Department, couldn’t sleep Wednesday night.

Concord’s Engine 5 Captain, Chris Dolloff, needed time to process what had happened that afternoon – a fellow rescuer had spotted a small hand emerge from under a blanket as smoke and fire enveloped the house – before he really felt the impact.

The two Concord firefighters were part of a life-saving, conveyor-belt like rescue operation in Webster. Three people – a woman and two children – were passed through two upstairs windows, moving from Lt. Ben Smith of the Webster Fire Department, to Dolloff, to Costello, who, three times, climbed down the ladder and passed off the victim to a waiting medical team.

Costello spoke to the three people as he descended, calming them, telling them they were safe. He said other things, but chose to keep them private, part of their own, unique world.

“Some parts,” Costello said, “you don’t share. They’re personal.”

The fire at 252 Deer Meadow Road was reported at 3:21 p.m. Wednesday. The caller said people might be trapped inside.

On scene, Costello and Jeff Stone, acting battalion chief in Concord, worked together from separate ladders, to carry down the 37-year-old woman who Dolloff said had resisted when he first encountered her, just minutes, maybe seconds, before. The children, a 9-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, were still inside. They had to act fast.

Officials have declined to name the three victims publicly. All three were transported to Concord Hospital and then to Massachusetts General in Boston. An update on their condition was not available Thursday from the hospital. Attempts to reach family members Thursday were unsuccessful. 

But the stories of fear, bravery, and life-saving actions emerged, from the firefighters who worked at the core of this near-tragedy, showing how closely things could have turned out differently.

Costello grew up in a Henniker neighborhood  full of firefighters. Now 45, he’s the training officer for Concord and one of the two firefighters whose role was to climb, hold on tight, descend, then hand off.

Earlier, Costello had overheard his chief, Guy Newbery, talking on the phone and sensed something urgent was unfolding.

“I knew the Webster chief was on the scene and I knew someone was trapped in a window,” Costello said. “That’s not something you hear a lot, someone hanging out a window with the fire behind them.”

Costello saw Webster Fire Chief Emmett Bean, one of the first rescuers to arrive at the fire, at the home and said the chief was stretching from the roof of a grader, on tiptoes, trying to reach one of the windows. Bean was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Meanwhile, other Concord firefighters had gone through the front door to fight the blaze, which was not all-engulfing but chugged plenty of smoke.

Two ladders were leaned against the house, ending at the windows. Dolloff, already upstairs, saw the woman in the background.

He said the woman, perhaps panicking, grabbed his facemask. He used one hand to keep his mask in place, the other to push her hand away.

“She was combative, very agitated,” Dolloff said. “I got her to stop doing that. I got her turned around toward the window.”

Costello held her torso, while Stone, on his own ladder, had her legs. They moved down slowly.

Meanwhile, the children had not been visible to firefighters initially. So while Dolloff and Stone had handoff duties at the window, Lt. Smith of Webster, who had entered a large, cluttered room, noticed a hand peeking out from beneath a blanket. It was the 9-year-old girl.

He grabbed her, starting the conveyor belt, from Smith to Dolloff to Costello, who brought each of the children down the ladder by himself.

Reflecting, Dolloff said the proverbial brick wall landed on him soon after the three victims were rescued. He estimated it took 4½ minutes to complete the mission. He said it seemed longer.

“It takes time to process what happened,” Dolloff said. “You take a walk to collect your thoughts. I knew a woman was involved, but I had no idea we’d basically stumble upon two kids. That changes the game, especially when you have children.”

Concord Fire Chief Guy Newbery said the operation was more difficult than usual due to the effort needed on the ground, where medical teams and ambulances awaited their next move as Costello moved down the ladder.

“Complex,” Newbery called the fire.

Investigators believe the fire began on the second floor, said Stacey Dubois, district chief at the New Hampshire Fire Marshal’s Office. She added that the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Rescue personnel came from Webster, Boscawen, Concord, Franklin, Chichester and Hopkinton. The firefighters on the two ladders and inside on the second floor have the vivid memories, that will last.

Asked if he slept the night of the fire, Costello said, “Hell no. My adrenaline was still pumping.”

He stressed the teamwork involved, making sure to spread credit around. He and Dolloff knew they were using a cliche when both said they were merely doing their job. 

But Costello couldn’t hide from becoming the major name behind this story. He scaled the ladder to save people. Plus, his image was captured near the top, saving lives, his surname draped across his backside, clearly visible.

The adrenaline kept him awake that night. So did the phone.

“As soon as that hit social media, my phone did not stop ringing until the middle of the night,” Costello said. “Then it started again at 5 in the morning. It’s a strong knit community, and it’s not uncommon for people to reach out and ask if you’re okay.”




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