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Young Man Risks Life To Save Elderly Man Trapped in Burning Forge Village Road Home

Firefighters were able to put out the house fire at 290 Forge Village road in just 15 minutes. The one resident who was trapped inthe house was rescued by a passerby and neighbor. Photo by  Will Rolferuss

Groton Firefighters work to contain blaze at 290 Forge Village road where man trapped in this house was rescued by passerby. Photo by Wil Rolferuss

Derek Vacca, driving past, dragged elderly man from building.

Andrew Casavecchia help carry man to safety.

He crawled into the burning building 3 times to find the man before being able to move him to the doorway. By the end he was vomiting up ‘black carbon.’

by Russell Harris

   At 12:33 p.m. Friday, February 16,  Groton Fire Department received a call for smoke in the residence at 290 Forge Village Rd. While firefighters responded to the scene, updates indicated that there was a fire and a resident still trapped in the home. Upon arrival, firefighters found a one and a half story duplex with smoke emanating from the eaves. 

    When GFD arrived at the scene, an elderly man was outside, having just been pulled out of the building by Derek Vacca, a passerby who had seen “heavy, thick smoke...just pouring out of everwhere.” Vacca had entered the burning home, pulling the incapacitated resident to safety just three minutes before Groton firefighters arrived. 

   When Vacca first pulled over, he saw a woman running across the front yard, shouting. She said her tenant was in the burning building. When the two called the man’s name, they could hear him groaning, according to CBS news.

  CBS news reported that Vacca entered the building on his stomach, trying to get under the smoke. Using his cell phone flashlight to see through the smoke, he re-entered the burning building three times before eventually finding the man and dragging him to the doorway.

    Neighbor Andrew Casavecchia, who was picking up his children, saw what was happening and ran to help. From the doorway, Andrew Casavecchia helped Derek Vacca pull the victim through the doorway, onto the porch and then well away from the burning building. Casavecchia said that they rolled the man over, helping him sit up so he could get some air.    

  Groton firefighters quickly went to work to assist the injured resident and extinguish the fire summoning assistance from Littleton, Ayer, Westford and Pepperell. 

  The fire was under control within 15 minutes of arrival with firefighters containing the fire damage to two rooms. Other areas of the home sustained smoke damage, however the contents and valuables were all saved according to Fire Chief Steele McCurdy. “Our firefighters performed admirably under some 

pretty severe conditions.”

   The victim and Vacca were evaluated at the scene by the Groton Fire and both were taken to Lowell General hospital. Vacca said he had been throwing up a black carbon substance. He was treated at the hospital for several hours, released and was back home with his family. The elderly man was listed in serious condition at Lowell General Hospital.

   The cause of the fire remains under investigation, with investigators from the Groton Fire Department and the State Fire Marshals office working in to the evening to reconstruct the burned out rooms to help narrow down the cause. It is unknown of smoke alarms were present in the home at the fire of the fire, however their importance cannot be over stated. Test your smoke alarms regularly to make sure that if a disaster strikes you have the most advanced warning possible.

    “If it weren’t for the heroic actions of the passerby and neighbors, the result of the fire would have likely been much worse.” According to Chief Steele McCurdy. A group of strangers came together in the time of need in order to rescue another. These uncommon acts of heroism are to be commended. We never expect citizens to risk their lives however in this case a life was saved.

   McCurdy added that Derek Vacca had absolutely put himself in danger. He said, “We would never ask somebody to put themselves in danger, but he saw an opportunity to help someone and jumped right into action, so kudos to him.” 


         Mutual Aide "Invaluable"

Groton Chief Steele McCurdy said that while the Groton Fire Department was fighting the Forge Village Road fire, Groton Dispatch Center received five calls for assistance from the Fire Department, one for the odor of gas on Boston Road, the second for a carbon monoxide issue at a residence and three separate medical issue calls. The Chief said that Mutual Aid was invaluable is helping to respond to some of these calls, while the Dunstable Volunteer Fire Department covered the Center Fire Station.

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