Late Fire Chief Borden Credited with Life-Saving Plan for Burned Out Mill

Fire Chief Richard B. Borden died in May, 2015, at age 56.

Fire Chief Richard B. Borden died in May, 2015, at age 56.

A deadly 1999 inspired late Fire Chief Richard B. Borden to craft advance life-saving plans for the Stevens Street mill building that burned to the ground Sunday night.

The fire at the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. claimed the lives of six firefighters who found the building’s layout confusing. Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini credited Borden with creating a fire plan for the similar Haverhill building.

“Chief Borden worked hard on this: advance planning and for these buildings a standing order that the fire was to be fought from outside the building,” Fiorentini told WHAV. “Developing advance fire plan for these buildings critical to containing fire and protecting lives of our firefighters,” the mayor said.

No injuries were reported at14 Stevens St., which formerly housed Hudson Machinery Company. Fiorentini said, however, the building was the subject of redevelopment talks to begin this week.

“This was going to be a wonderful redevelopment site. It’s terrible,” the mayor said.

Haverhill police told WHAV this morning the four-story structure is a total loss. Lafayette Square remained closed to traffic as of 6 a.m. and traffic from Hilldale Avenue, Broadway, Essex and Winter streets was being diverted. Southbound traffic on Hilldale Avenue was being redirected onto Lafayette Street to the intersection of Broadway and Blaisdell Street and proceeding toward High Street. The state fire marshal’s office has been notified as fire crews remain at the scene to contain any flare-ups, according to police.

What turned out to be an eight-alarm blaze brought mutual aid from such area communities as Amesbury, Andover, Atkinson, Lawrence, Methuen, Plaistow and West Newbury. Haverhill firefighters battled the blaze from both sides of Little River. Stevens Street begins at Winter Street, near the Haffner’s gas station. Other fire departments covered Haverhill fire stations. According to what he has learned, Fiorentini said, neither firefighters nor anyone else has been hurt.

“Our number one concern is that nobody’s hurt—our guys or anybody else.”

The mayor said he is thankful for the support from other communities.

“I hear (interim Fire Chief John E. Parow) has done a wonderful job. The guys have set up a firewall to stop the fire from spreading. The guys from West Newbury are down along Little River to try and stop the fire from spreading over there. It’s great cooperation, coordination,” he said.

Personnel from Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan’s staff were on scene at 9 p.m., according to fire department radio reports.

The city has used federal Community Development Block Grant money to board up the building and its owner has hired private security to keep people out, officials said. The property is listed for sale on commercial real estate sites for possible redevelopment. A local commercial real estate broker connected with the property said Barry Levine owns the expansive building.

Just this past summer, city councilor were asked to amend zoning regulations for the Hale Street-Stevens Street industrial zone to allow future developments by special permit. Haverhill Economic Development and Planning Director William H. Pillsbury said, “The Industrial General (IG) zone including Stevens Street and Hale Street is an area of significant transition and as such the zoning amendment changes all uses currently labeled “P”—permitted, to “S” —special permit by the city council. This will enable an appropriate level of review of projects proposed for the area.”

“A group was coming in, scheduled to see me on Tuesday about redeveloping this whole area here,” Fiorentini said.

Video courtesy of Victoria Kelley.

2 thoughts on “Late Fire Chief Borden Credited with Life-Saving Plan for Burned Out Mill

  1. With all due respect to Mr. Borden…
    What would HFD have done had there been a report of homeless people in the building like the Worcester fire? Staying out of the building is just common sense if there is no one in it.

    This news coming from The Taxman about his plan to meet with a developer sounds like yet another of his political fantasy ploys. What developer would ever invest private funds in that area? It’s just a couple of blocks from the largest area of crime, drugs, prostitution and home to illegal immigrants in the city. Who would ever travel there to a retail location or to conduct any kind of business? Most people I know go out of there way not to even go near the Winter Street area. The only way someone would do that is if they got all kinds of tax breaks from the mayor. Why don’t you enlighten the citizens of Haverhill Mr. Taxman on what personal friend you were preparing to spend their money on this time like you did with Harbor Place?

    It’s Monday afternoon and Winter Street is closed at the beginning of Lafayette Square. The road is roped off with barrels. Even though with the barricade, and no way a car could even start to travel up the street, in true Haverhill fashion there are three cops standing around there doing absolutely nothing. Three!!! Which means there must be cops standing around at every street leading to that area. So typical…..