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Firefighter’s amputation blamed on out-of-service ladder truck, other issues

Target 12

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — A Pawtucket Fire Department injury report obtained by Target 12 blames an out-of-service ladder truck, a lack of funding to repair it, training, and a number of other issues for an injury to a firefighter that resulted in him losing his foot.

The firefighter’s foot was amputated 15 days after he was injured during a May 15 triple-decker fire at 579 Central Ave., the report written by Assistant Fire Chief Jay McLaughlin states.

According to the report, the 25-year veteran was cutting a hole in the roof of the building — a process known as ventilating. When “a woman appeared in a third-floor window calling for help,” the firefighter and another crew member returned to the ladder from the roof and instructed the driver to move the truck toward the woman.

The firefighter who was driving “verified (several times)” that the hands and feet of the firefighters on the ladder were clear of the moving rungs, according to the report.

“Considering the life safety of the [woman] and the urgency of the rescue [the firefighter who was eventually injured] instructed [the driver] to move the aerial ladder,” McLaughlin ​​​​wrote.

McLaughlin said the rescue of the woman would have “normally” been performed by the city’s second ladder truck but it “was out-of-service due to lack of funding for repair.”

The lack of a second ladder was identified as one of four root causes in McLaughlin’s report, which also blamed occupying a moving ladder truck, lack of a standard operation procedure (SOP) and training.

“Lack of training, due to the department’s unwillingness to provide monies or time off for training, making training the lowest of priorities,” McLaughlin wrote in the report.

McLaughlin said he could not comment on the report.

City spokesman Wilder Arboleda said the city is investigating whether or not the fire department “followed protocols.”

“There is an ongoing investigation,” Arboleda said. “If it’s determined that protocols and standards were violated, contributing to the injuries, the City will take the necessary disciplinary action including termination.”

Arboleda said Ladder 2 was out of service from January 28 to May 16. He said it was returned to the department the day before the accident but needed tires, delaying its deployment until the day after the accident.

McLaughlin’s report also makes a number of recommendations, including properly funding repairs and prioritizing training.

Following the firefighter’s injury, crews were able to rescue two women who were later hospitalized with minor smoke inhalation.

R.I. Fire Marshal Deputy Chief Michael Sweeney said the fire appeared to be accidental and probably started on the second floor by a cigarette tossed in a trash can.

This article was updated to include a response from the City of Pawtucket.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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