City employee in Massachusetts burned during prescribed fire

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.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

3 thoughts on “City employee in Massachusetts burned during prescribed fire”

  1. Even if not phragmites, that cane/plume grass type fuel can be pretty volatile. I’m sure they will be re evaluating their ignition techniques after this. However, I DO hope they continue to burn this area. I take offense to the repeated inferences in the article that because the structural guys were not involved there was never any chance of “control”. Give me a break. You guys in your bright shiny type 1’s need to give wildland fire starters/fighters a heck of a lot more credit.

  2. The photos accompanying the story in the Taunton Gazette are not the greatest but it looks to me like the fuels in the marsh was phragmites. It may be that the phragmites has been a recent invader of the marsh thus giving the crew a new fuel type with witch the DPW workers were unfamiliar.

    Too the story makes it sound like they were walking out into the fuel, lighting spots and then walking out. Seems like a poor strategy for a fuel as flashy as phragmites.

  3. Translate to spanish:

    Durante al menos los últimos 42 años, el Departamento de Obras Públicas (DPW) de Stoughton, Massachusetts, ha venido quemando la maleza en las praderas de Mead para preparar el área alrededor de la laguna para la temporada de patinaje sobre hielo. No ha habido mayores problemas hasta el lunes, cuando un repentino cambio de viento empujó el fuego hacia el empleado del DPW Steve Lewandowski. Trató de correr, pero se quedó atascado en el barro. John Batchelder, Directora del Departamento de Obras Públicas, dijo que Lewandowski fue capaz de doblarse y meter su cara en el barro y el agua, mientras que las llamas pasaron quemando de su cuerpo.

    Lewandowski fue ingresado en la Unidad de Quemados en el Hospital General de Massachusetts, la noche del lunes. Más tarde, en el hospital fue catalogado como que estaba en buen estado. Su novia dijo que tiene quemaduras en el cuello, la espalda, y la cara enrojecida.

    Nadie del Departamento de Bomberos estaba presente durante la quema prescrita. Un habitante del lugar llamó al 911 cuando escuchó a un hombre en el lugar de la quema gritando repetidas veces, y vio que las llamas eran más altas que otras veces que ella veía al Departamento de Obras Públicas quemar de la pradera. La policía y unidades de bomberos acudieron a ayudar a Lewandowski a salir del área de quema hasta una ambulancia.

    Según un artículo publicado en la Taunton Gazette, Batchelder dijo que los empleados del DPW responsables de iniciar y controlar el fuego no tenían formación para ello. El jefe de bomberos Mark Dolloff dijo que investigará el incidente.


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