For at least the last 42 years, the Stoughton, Massachusetts (map) Department of Public Works had burned the brush at Mead’s Meadow to prepare the area around the pond for ice skating season. There had been no major problems until Monday, when an unexpected wind shift pushed the fire toward DPW employee Steve Lewandowski. He tried to run, but he got stuck in mud. John Batchelder, Superintendent of the DPW, said Lewandowski was able to bend over and get his face in the mud and water while the flames burned across his body.
Lewandowski was admitted to the Burn Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital Monday evening. Later the hospital listed him in good condition. His girlfriend said he has burns on his neck, and back, and his face is reddened.
No one from the Fire Department was present during the prescribed fire. A local resident called 911 when she heard a man at the project site screaming repeatedly, and saw that the flames were higher than she usually saw when the DPW burned the meadow. Police and fire units responded and helped Lewandowski walk out of the burn area to a ground ambulance.
According to an article at the Taunton Gazette, Batchelder said the DPW employees responsible for starting and controlling the fire have no training to do so. Fire Chief Mark Dolloff said he will investigate the incident.