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Local News

November 16, 2012

Heard Around Town: Two of country’s worst fires have Salem link

SALEM — This month is the anniversary of two fires that are among the worst in U.S. history.

Both have Salem connections.

The Boston Police Department has just released the transcripts of interviews with survivors of the Cocoanut Grove Fire, the Nov. 28, 1942, nightclub blaze in Boston that killed 492 people. This year is the 70th anniversary.

One of those survivors was Roland Sousa, 45, of Salem.

Here’s what he said to police, according to a published report on the transcripts: “I was just going to sit down and there is a little palm tree in the corner and it started to get aflame, but I didn’t get too excited because I had seen that before and they put it out.”

But this time, the fire spread.

“Yes, started to crawl all around the joint,” he said. “They didn’t stop it. It got ahead of them. So we made for the stairs. The flames were on my heels and crawled right along and spread out and then started smoking.”

Although not as deadly, the Great Boston Fire of 1872 is one of the biggest and most costly in U.S. history. It started on the morning of Nov. 9, 1872, and destroyed 776 buildings and much of the downtown, killing at least 30 people.

Lots of communities helped, including Salem, which sent Engines 1 and 2 and Hose 5 — by rail car.

Tonight, a crew from Salem is headed into Florian Hall in Dorchester for the 100th anniversary banquet of the Box 52 Association, the nation’s oldest fire buff club. The first alarm in 1872 was pulled at Box 52 in downtown Boston.

The Salem delegation includes City Councilor Joe O’Keefe, the former state fire marshal; retired Deputy Chief Tom Brophy; fire dispatcher Jeff Brown; and a bunch of others.

Name that lane

They do a lot of fun things at Bates School, and none funner — that’s not a word, is it? — than the PTO’s “Name the Lane” fundraiser. Students sell $5 raffle tickets for a chance to win a $100 gas card. This year, the event raised a whopping $1,645.

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