More than 100 Firefighters Battle 60-acre Brush Fire
by Lynne Ober
For two days firefighters fought a 60-acre blaze on the Pelham – Windham town lines. The call came into the Pelham Fire Department around 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, April 2, and within a few minutes, Pelham firefighters had responded to the fire, located under the power lines behind Castle Hill and Field roads.
Hudson Firefighters were one of the first mutual aid companies to arrive and assist in battling this blaze, one of the largest in New Hampshire this season. “I sent a crew with an officer to assist Pelham and Windham on Monday morning,” said Hudson Chief Shawn Murray.
Deputy Gary Rodgers, along with seven firefighters, spent the better part of Monday checking hot spots throughout the brush fire. Rodgers walked the perimeter, approximately 1.5 miles with GPS mapping system, to calculate the acreage. “Sunday was a red flag fire danger day,” said Rodgers. “Monday evening through Wednesday morning rains have lessened the fire danger by soaking the ground.”
Pelham Fire Lieutenant Jim Midgley said that crews found a massive brush fire that was spreading quickly in the windy, dry conditions and called for mutual aid. All in all, 16 fire departments fought through the afternoon and evening to contain the blaze that spread out nearly a mile.
Because there were no access roads in the area, firefighters worked with hand lines. They pumped water from streams and used portable pumps to draw water from a nearby pond.
“It was a very dangerous situation, but no injuries occurred,” said Pelham Fire Chief Dave Fisher.
Altogether 120 firefighters and five fire chiefs worked side by side. “The fact that they worked as a cohesive unit is a great compliment to the training that every firefighter has,” smiled Fisher, who noted that Pelham had control of the fire and ran the command center.
At times flames shot as much as 30 feet into the air. Pelham lost 1,000 feet of hose and used flame retardant foam material on the fire. Both of these items will need to be replaced.
Pelham firefighters deemed the fire contained by 6:45 p.m. “The goal was to contain the perimeter before dark because it would have been too dangerous to be fighting a rapidly spreading fire in the woods after dark,” stated Midgley.
Most of the crews withdrew by 7:30 p.m., but a fire watch was established because hot spots still existed in the area. With cooler evening temperatures and the perimeter contained, it was deemed safer to wait until morning to look for hot spots.
By 7:00 a.m. on Monday, Pelham firefighters were back on the scene looking for those hot spots and ensuring that these were stamped out. They worked until the middle of the afternoon.
Altogether approximately 60 acres burned, but no homes had to be evacuated. “The fire came within 20 feet of one home. “The firefighters worked very hard to save that home and were successful,” said Fisher.
The Salvation Army worked on the scene helping hydrate and feed weary firefighters.
In addition to the Pelham and Windham fire departments, Hudson, Litchfield, Hollis, Merrimack, Londonderry, Derry, Atkinson, Hampstead, and Lowell and Dracut, Massachusetts, were included in the departments responding to the scene.
Midgley praised everyone who worked the fire. “It was done very professionally under difficult conditions.”
American Red Cross Honors Eleventh Grader for Life-saving Effort
by Sue LaRoche
Most times your first babysitting experience is not very memorable; the parents go over instructions, you play with the kids for a little while, go through the bedtime routine, tuck them in reassuring them that Mom and Dad will be home soon, and head to the couch to watch TV. Keith Lelievre’s first babysitting experience will be etched in his memory forever as his was slightly different - he saved someone’s life! It is for this brave deed that the American Red Cross will honor Keith as Youth Red Cross Hero for 2006 at their Third Annual Heroes Awards Breakfast on April 11.
It all began when Linda and Jeff Schwartz decided to get a babysitter for their kids Alex and Andrew (then 5 and 7) while they went a couple of doors down to a neighborhood party. Keith, then a seventh grader at Memorial School, was their choice as “Keith is an exceptional young man, wise beyond his years” which made them extremely comfortable leaving their children in his charge. Fortunately for everyone involved, they had chosen the right person.
“I read Alex and Andrew a book about the First Thanksgiving and then it was time to go to bed, so I took them upstairs and had them brush their teeth. Andrew was easier to get to bed than Alex so I tucked him in and went into Alex’s room. The next few minutes (approximately 20 minutes) were as if time stood still” he relates still in awe of the situation.
Alex excitedly tells the story of what happened that night. “I wanted to show Keith a trick that my dad had shown me with a quarter so I got one out of my piggy bank. You are supposed to put the coin in your mouth and blow it up into the air but I breathed in and the coin went in not out. I almost died that night - I’m really glad Keith was there to save me.” Keith was turning down Alex’s bed when he heard a strange noise and turned to see Alex clutching his throat, his lips starting to turn blue, and a piggy bank on the floor. Fortunately for Alex, Keith had paid attention in health class earlier that year and he performed the Heimlich maneuver (three quick thrusts inward and upward on the abdomen) and up came the coin (along with the contents of Alex’s stomach).
“Andrew heard the commotion and was very upset so I calmed him down and got him back to bed, cleaned Alex up, cleaned up the mess on the rug, since I was afraid that it would stain, and put Alex to bed,” Keith said smiling. “Mrs. Schwartz couldn’t believe I actually cleaned the rug,” he laughed.
Katie Lelievre, Keith’s mom, stated proudly, “With four kids this house can be chaos and Keith is always the calming factor. If ever there was a crisis, Keith is the one you want to be around. It doesn’t surprise me at all what he did, only the way that he did it.”
After the kids were in bed, the rug cleaned, and the quarter replaced in the piggy bank, Keith went down to relax on the couch and only then did the reality of the situation hit him. “I felt relieved that I knew what to do. I think about what could have happened and I realize how lucky I am to have had learned it in school.” Keith told this story to his health teacher, Mr. Hodge (a health teacher at HMS for 30 years). “I remember how excited Keith was when he saw me in the hallway and how he thanked me for teaching the Heimlich maneuver to him. I teach the Heimlich maneuver to every seventh grade class that I have. I tell the kids that little kids can do anything and you need to be prepared. What better image can you present to kids than this?”
When Alex’s mom, Linda, called to check in later on that night Keith told her what had taken place. “I was in shock. He was so calm and cool. We are grateful that he saved Alex’s life,” she admiringly stated.
Keith’s dad, David, agrees. “He clearly has a purpose in his life and this is just the beginning. He isn’t even close to being finished.” Currently a junior at Alvirne High School, Keith is beginning his exploration of colleges and is looking at Franciscan University in Ohio to study theology/philosophy. He is on the debate team at school, serves as a eucharistic minister and works part time at St. Kathryn Church. Having a strong faith background gives him perspective on his accomplishment. “Life is so important - it needs to be cherished. I appreciate that the Red Cross and society continue to recognize the importance of life.”
In Memoriam: Andy Polak
Hudson lost another “Town Father” this week with the passing of Andy Polak. Andrew J. Polak served Hudson as police chief all through the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s and on into the early 1970s.
“He was fair and good to the kids in town. He would bring them home to their parents not just off to jail,” said longtime friend Esther McGraw about her friend. McGraw could reminisce about Polak and other “old timers” all day if you let her. “Back in the early days, officers did not have radios. Andy was known to make personal house calls, relaying important messages for hospitals and other paces. He would help anyone he could; he was a peace-making man.”
Polak was the first Hudson Police officer to graduate from the FBI academy. The only other Hudson office to do so is current Chief Dick Gendron. “I started my career with the Hudson Police Department in 1978 and did not have the opportunity to work with or for Chief Polak. In my contact with many citizens of Hudson, I got to know him as a very caring and compassionate individual,” said Gendron. “When I was appointed chief in 1993, he called to congratulate me and offer some words of wisdom, such as: ‘don’t let the politics in town interfere with the duties and responsibilities of the police department.’” “Chief Polak will be missed by all and is a true credit to the law enforcement profession.”
Assistant Commissioner Earl Sweeney was a longtime friend and fellow police officer tells about the time a safe was stolen from Benson’s and his dealings with Andy on that case. They were able to bring the suspects responsible for the theft to justice, but not before a lengthy investigation with many leads to follow.
In 2003, Andy and his family graciously donated much of his personal memorabilia to the Hudson Historical Society. Included in the donation was his personal ledger of his work for the department chronicling 1946 through 1951 and his FBI experiences. His Class A uniform can be seen at the Hills House on display at events such as Old Home Days.
Andy Polak, was presented with an award honoring his long service on the Traffic Safety Advisory Board in December of 2004. Polak worked hard to improve all areas of Hudson and, as part of his efforts; he began serving on the Traffic Safety Advisory Board in 1979.
Peter Thomson, Director of New Hampshire Highway Safety Department, presented the plaque. Dick Tuck, Chairman of the committee, and Jerry Gagnon, Vice Chairman of the committee, both spoke briefly and praised Polak’s long and industrious service to the state.
Attending the presentation were Police Captain Bill Pease, Sergeant Michael Smith and Esther McGraw.
“This is a well-deserved honor and it was my pleasure to serve with Chief Polak,” said Pease.
Polak, a daily visitor to Suzie’s Diner, died during a brief stay at St Joseph’s Hospital in Nashua on April 4 at 5:35 am. “It was truly a blessing as he was in a lot of pain in his final weeks after a recent hip fracture,” shared the oldest of Andy’s two daughters, June Morin, sitting at “their table” at Suzie’s Diner on Wednesday afternoon. Nearly every day for the past several years, June and her family took the wheelchair-bound Andy to the Hudson diner for lunch for a bite to eat and “just to get out and see everyone.”
While he had slowed down a bit recently, the 94-year-old Polak still loved to “hold court” at Suzie’s. “Everybody seemed to know him,” shared Chris LaBonti, who often waited on Andy’s table at lunch. “He seemed to really like the company along with his daily omelet and decaf coffee.” “He was a very nice guy,” offered another waitress, Heidi. “He was in here all the time and we’ll all miss him.”
Andrew Polak, who lived at 140 Melendy Road since 1937, served as Hudson’s police chief for 26 years. “He actually served in the Hudson PD from 1938 to 1972, including 26 years as chief,” remembered June. “He retired as chief in 1972 and since then much of his pastimes involved fishing and hunting.” She smiled recalling the imprint on his favorite shirt, “Fish tremble at the sight of my name.”
Once Again, Town Approves Sidewalks/Crosswalks to Nowhere
by Doug Robinson
At their March 25 meeting, the Hudson Selectmen approved Sean Sullivan’s request for an additional $5,200 to the sidewalk contract, so that the town could “signalize (a) pedestrian crosswalk at the Lowell Road and Birch Street intersection.” Unfortunately, for the pedestrians of Hudson, the intersection at the corner of Lowell Road and Birch Street runs directly into a culvert, protected by a guardrail.
The intersection/crosswalk in question is located between T-Bones and Suzie’s Diner. According to the Lowell Road Sidewalk Improvement Project, “the placement of a pedestrian crosswalk on the north side of the intersection warrants the inclusion of two pedestrian signals to service that crosswalk. The pedestrian signal system is not part of the original design or scope of work.”
Selectman Shawn Jasper questioned Sullivan, Hudson’s Community Development Director,: “I am having a little trouble visualizing the placement. The north side is directly in line with First Brook.”
Sullivan replied, “The exact location has not been pinpointed yet.”
Jasper stated, “The north side of the intersection goes right into the guard rail.”
Sullivan: “It (guardrail) is on the south side; at the very least it is on the south side.”
Jasper pointed out to Sullivan that the documents presented to the Board of Selectmen stated that the “placement of a pedestrian crosswalk on the north side of the intersection.”
Sullivan then said to Jasper, “I agree with you, there is a guardrail on the north side.”
“The sidewalk will be on the Suzie’s Diner side,” responded Jasper. “A little map would have been helpful.”
This crosswalk project is part of the master plan called the Lowell Road Sidewalk Improvement Project which was originally part of a New Hampshire DOT grant written in 1998. When completed, the crosswalk will run continuously from Central Street, along Lowell Road, ending at the diner.
If a pedestrian or vehicle were to be traveling north, from Birch Street to Lowell Road, the traveler would run into a guard rail, or the traveler would end up in a flowing body of water, or Second Brook culvert, which is protected by the guardrail.
Sean Sullivan, Community Development Director for the Town of Hudson, stated that when completed this new sidewalk “will allow children to walk to school safely as well as travel to the nearby skate park without having to travel on the busy Lowell Road.”
Griffin Memorial Students Compete in Destination Imagination
On Saturday, March 25, three teams from Griffin Memorial School participated in the Regional Destination Imagination competition in Merrimack.
Bryce Desmarais, Brandon Jaffrey, Jonathan Hoffman, and Lexi and Erin Dudley participated in the non-competitive level, for kids in kindergarten through second grade, putting on a skit called 1 – 2 - Change-A-Roo. They performed wonderfully.
The Mexican Jumping Beans team, consisting of Cameron Blaisdell, Emily Baker, Mark McClure, Noel Crooker and Rhiana Desmarais, performed in the competitive level for third through fifth graders. Their skit about a Mexican chupacabra was entertaining, funny, and informative.
The last team, comprised of Sam and Madeline Mahoney, Samantha and Jacob Parzyck, Austin Baker, and Emily DeBaker, competed in the technical challenge and placed third overall.
For many of the students this was their first exposure to Destination Imagination and they all hope to compete and move up to the state competition next year.