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Retired nurse dies in Mass. house fire

An off-duty firefighter saw smoke and called in the fire, but was unable to rescue the woman

Boston Herald

NATICK, Mass. — A retired nurse has become the 12th Bay Stater to die in a fire this year, despite the efforts of a Natick firefighter who happened upon the blaze on his way to work and used a garden brick to break into her home in a futile bid to rescue her.

“She was wonderful. Just wonderful. She was always doing for other people,” Joan Harris, a neighbor of one of Carol Ann R. McCarthy’s two sons in Natick, said of the widowed grandmother.

Acting State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey’s office said it appeared there were no working smoke detectors in the 73-year-old McCarthy’s East Central Street home, where a scorched mattress lay yesterday on the front lawn. The cause of the two-alarm fire remains under investigation.

McCarthy was found unresponsive inside, and was later pronounced dead at Leonard Morse Hospital in Natick, said Ostroskey and Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan. Her family declined comment.

Mount Auburn Hospital spokesman Michael McConnell confirmed McCarthy was a retired nurse, who had worked in the emergency department.

Lt. Eric Williamson, a Natick firefighter for nine years, told the Herald that when he returned to the scene later yesterday and saw the second floor he was unable to access without his normal department gear, he realized she was beyond help.

“It was definitely a whole different world on the second floor,” Williamson said. “It wouldn’t have done any good if I’d gone up there and now they’re looking for two people. But yes, it stings.”

Williamson was headed to work at Natick fire headquarters about a mile up the road shortly after 7:30 a.m. when brownish-yellow smoke wafting from McCarthy’s four-bedroom Colonial caught his eye. “It was not typical for a wood stove or fireplace,” he said, “so I slowed down just to take a peep and saw that it was really pushing out of the second-floor windows. So, I pulled over and called it in.”

Williamson began circling the house, looking in the first-floor windows. “I didn’t see anybody,” he said. “I was pounding and banging on everything, screaming. Nobody answered. So I went around to the front door. There was like a small window in a wooden door. I saw a brick on the ground in the garden so I smashed out the window with the brick, reached through under the deadbolt, went in and did a primary search of the first floor and the basement. Didn’t find anybody.

“At that point I heard sirens in the distance. I tried to make it to the second floor,” he said, “but I got halfway up and it was just too much smoke. I couldn’t breathe. I wouldn’t have made it. I was yelling the whole time. There was nobody.”

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