MATTAPOISETT — The massive blaze that destroyed the Mattapoisett Boatyard a little over five weeks ago required 37 agencies to knock down, sparing all the many nearby homes in the process.
And, miraculously, no lives were lost.
Mattapoisett Fire Chief Andrew Murray said, "There were 23 fire engines, two ladders, 13 ambulances, 13 tank trucks, 18 fire chiefs, eight specialty vehicles including FEMA, MEMA, DEP, Coast Guard, as well as our harbormaster, and there was the hard work from our Highway Department, our Police Department, EMS. All our town agencies really pulled together. Even the Water Department was boosting all the pressure they could with the pumps."
The boatyard at 32 Ned's Point Road was the center of attention again Thursday when officials gathered to honor those efforts, including the heroic actions of four boatyard employees who risked their lives to save fellow employee Phil Macomber, 50.
Macomber, an employee of 20 years standing who suffered burns and a shattered femur, was also in attendance in a wheelchair.
'In the end, we lost everything': Mattapoisett Boatyard rebuilding after devastating fire
The four boatyard employees — Jake Clarke, Roger Reed, Jacey Yancey and Trevellis Oliver — effected Macomber's rescue after an explosion triggered the blaze. The fire's cause was determined to be a spark igniting gasoline vapors while a boat’s gas tank was being replaced.
In true heroic fashion, they had declined to come forward for any credit, but were honored Thursday, including with certificates from Gov. Baker presented by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, as well as plaudits on behalf of the Legislature from Rep. Bill Straus and a representative from Sen. Mark Montigny's office.
Murray said, the "four unsung heroes risked their lives. They pushed into a burning building with fire and flames rolling over their heads. They called it, 'the monster.'"
He added, "That's not something they were trained to do, not something they were paid to do. That's not something they were expected to do — but they did it. They got in there. They made that rescue. They pulled him out, and our EMS and our police were right there to make that rescue, and allowed us to get to our jobs and work."
Mattapoisett Police Chief Jason King said, "If it wasn't for Jake, Roger, Jacey, and Trevellis, we might be talking differently today. But they are true heroes for getting that injured party to the door so EMS could retrieve him. The four civilian boat workers, paramedic (Kevin) Porter, Officer (Junior) Cardoso, Sgt. (Scott) LeBlanc, all put their own lives on the line that day to help and retrieve this person."
He added, "Whether it's fire, police, or EMS, when you put on that uniform you never know what your shift will bring. However, we all signed up for these professions and know that it takes a special person. All of the first responders that answered the call on this day did not hesitate to put their own lives on the line to perform the duties of their jobs."
David Kaiser, who owns and operates the boatyard with son Ned, passed down from his father-in-law, Art McLean, said, "Thank God they responded that quickly and stayed with Phil to the end. I don't think any of them were ready to give up. They were going to be there until the end. If they went down with him, they were going down. This would be a very different story had there been a loss of life."
Though the boatyard site has been cleared of the charred debris from six buildings, 20 boats, and well over 20 cars — and work has begun again two weeks after the Aug. 19 fire — it's still a long road back.
Kaiser said, "Our employees and all of us, we lost everything — everything. I was doing a job down on the dock one day about two weeks after, and I needed two little screws, just two little screws. So I turned and literally started walking up the road to the stock room. I got about 10 steps and just stopped. And an expletive came to mind. The reality of losing everything still hadn't set in yet."
But the boatyard family — both literally and the figurative family of long-term employees — remains undaunted.
Kaiser said, "Are we going to rebuild? You betcha. We'll get our buildings and our tools back. We've got our staff and our community to help us."
Community support was a constant theme during Thursday's event — from the public service community, the Mattapoisett community, and the community at large. Help has even come from as far off as North Carolina, California and Florida.
Kaiser said, "The way the community has rallied around us, the outpouring of support and love, has been nothing short of amazing. I can speak for all of our employees and our family and say that we are truly honored for this gathering and for everybody's support."
His father-in-law Art McLean said he watched the boatyard burn from the beach with his wife that day.
"I bought this place in 1962, my whole life has been here, and I personally built a couple of those buildings all by myself."
What he kept thinking, though, was, "I hope no one was in the building or got hurt."
He said, "I was so happy to learn afterward that Phil, who went through an awful lot, has pulled through, and is doing extremely well. I just can't thank enough all the fire departments who came here and did such a wonderful job, especially saving all our neighbors' houses."
McLean added, though the pain had been almost like losing a family member, "I really appreciate what everybody's done for us. It's so nice to have everybody here. Thank you."
This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: Heroes honored in wake of Mattapoisett Boatyard fire