Firefighter dies saving baby, fellow firefighters in house fire

WORCESTER, Mass. (WCVB/WBZ/CNN/AP/Gray News) - A Massachusetts fire lieutenant scheduled to leave on a Disney vacation with his family after his shift ended died early Wednesday while investigating a report of a trapped baby in a burning home, his chief said.

A firefighter was killed in a house fire while trying to save a baby and two fellow firefighters. (Source: WBZ via CNN)

"Today, our city once again has suffered an unimaginable, devastating loss with the death this morning of Lieutenant Jason Menard,” said Chief Michael Lavoie.

Lavoie said the Worcester Fire Department responded to a house fire early Wednesday, where a resident and baby were trapped on the third floor.

The fire overtook three firefighters, including Menard, as they saved the resident and child.

"Lieutenant Menard heroically and selflessly saved his crew, helping a probationary firefighter to the stairs and then returning to rescue another trapped firefighter, assisting him out the window,” Lavoie said.

Fire overtook the third floor and Menard couldn’t get out.

Three other firefighters were hurt battling the fire, one with serious injuries. Two others were treated and released from a hospital.

Menard was declared dead at the hospital.

“It’s their job. But you got to remember, you’re running away from the fire and they’re running into it," John Welch, a neighbor, told WBZ.

A woman who lives in the home also suffered serious injuries, and no other civilian injuries were reported.

The condition of the baby is not clear.

The American Red Cross said 15 people were displaced by the fire.

WBZ spoke to Kathy Desrosiers, whose home became a shelter for about a dozen people while firefighters tried to control the blaze.

“To be kind to someone - extremely important. It could happen to you - couldn’t imagine being in that spot and no one opened their door. These people had nothing on their backs," Desrosiers said.

The cause of the blaze, which took place with outside temperatures hovering in the teens, remains under investigation.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker offered his sympathy.

“We can’t say this enough: First responders wake up every morning, answer every call, never knowing what surprise may be in store for them, and knowing full well they might be putting their lives on the line for the sake of others,” Baker said.

Menard leaves behind a wife and three children. Lavoie said he had been with the department since 2010.

“To have this cruel loss this morning is almost more than one city can bear," City Manager Edward Augustus said.

The Menard family was scheduled to depart for a vacation to Disney World after his shift ended Wednesday, according to Michael Papagni, president of the city firefighters’ union.

“They are now instead planning a hero’s sendoff,” he said.

The Worcester Fire Department wrote on its Facebook page that "It is an extremely difficult day."

The fire department in Worcester, the state’s second largest city, has seen its share of tragedy.

Menard’s death comes less than a year after the on-duty of death of Worcester firefighter Christopher Roy, and about a month before the 20th anniversary of the deaths of six Worcester firefighters in a warehouse blaze in December 1999.

In December 2011, firefighter Jon Davies Sr. died while battling a house fire.

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Lt. Jason Mendard died after saving a baby and two trapped firefighters in a house fire. (Source: Worcester Fire Department via CNN)