Fire Dept. Responds To HazMat Incident At Star Market Monday Night, One Taken To Hospital

Photo: Belmont Fire’s ladder truck at the scene at Star Market on Monday, Oct. 11

A refrigerant leak in the basement of Star Market on Trapelo Road on Monday, Oct. 11 resulted in the state’s hazardous materials team being called to the scene by Belmont Fire officials.

In a press release from Belmont Fire Department Chief David DeStefano, Belmont Fire personnel responded to a call from the supermarket located at 535 Trapelo Rd. at 8:45 p.m. where they found an active leak of refrigerant filling areas of the store. Firefighters safety removed 18 employees and contractors in addition to customers while the incident commander requested mutual aid from Waltham Fire and assistance from the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services Hazardous Materials Team.

“We chose to house the Technical Operations Module or TOMS truck operated by the state here in our [Trapelo Road] Headquarters station for just such an incident,” said DeStefano. “The team was able to assemble and respond rapidly to our request for assistance. Working with neighboring agencies and partnering with the Commonwealth to leverage our capabilities provided efficiency and greater safety for our firefighters and the community in general.”

With assistance from the Haz Mat team and guidance from the refrigeration contractor at the scene, the system was made safe and the area ventilated. One employee was transported to Mt. Auburn Hospital for evaluation. While Belmont Fire companies operated at the incident Cambridge and Arlington fire departments provided station coverage.

Belmont To Observe 9/11 At Fire Department HQ, Saturday, Sept. 11; At The Beech Street Center On Sept. 9

Photo: Observance at Belmont Fire HQ recognizing those residents killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2014

Belmont will observe the 20th anniversary of 9/11 at two locations in the coming week.

At 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, the town will hold its official observance at the Belmont Fire Department headquarters at 299 Trapelo Rd. with the reading of the names of Belmont residents who were killed in the terrorist attacks. There will also be the tolling of the bell for the first responders who died in the line of duty and the lowering of the flag to half-staff.

The Beech Street Center members to honor and remember this important day in history on Thursday, Sept. 9 at 1:15 p.m. 

Participants will have an opportunity to share their own stories and memories about this day after we’ll watch a special documentary commemorating the 20th anniversary. Bob Upton Belmont’s Veterans’ Service Officer and officers from Belmont Police and Fire Department will attend and the Belmont Public Library will provide books and movies for those interested.

To register for the Beech Street Center event, leave a message on our programs and events line at 617-993-2976.  

No Injuries From B Street Duplex Blaze

Photo: An early morning house fire on B Street was quickly extinguished by Belmont Fire crews. (Credit Belmont Fire Department)

A house fire that broke out in a B Street duplex was put out without injuries to residents or firefighters early Thursday morning, Aug. 26.

Belmont Fire Department companies arriving at the scene at approximately 1:30 a.m. encountered a blaze in the kitchen of one of the condominiums and rapidly extinguished it confining damage to the room.

“Belmont firefighters confirmed that all residents had escaped by conducting a search of the entire duplex,” according to a press release from Belmont Fire Chief David DeStefano. “Firefighters also conducted smoke removal activities and monitored the occupancy to ensure the atmosphere was free of harmful products of combustion.”

Mutual aid came from the Cambridge, Arlington and Watertown fire departments.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

First fire responded by the department’s new pumper engine.

Belmont Fire Dept. Dedicates New Engine 2 Then Responds To Alarm Minutes Later

Photo: Belmont Fire’s new Engine 2

It didn’t take long for Belmont Fire to get to use its newest apparatus. Just minutes after the department placed the 2021 E-One pumper in service on Aug. 19, the newly dedicated Engine 2 responded to its first alarm from its new home on Leonard Street in Belmont Center for a flooded basement.

And the department has a pretty versatile truck. The pumper features a 1,500 gallon per minute pump, integrated foam delivery system, and has been configured to support the diverse missions of the modern fire service. In addition to its firefighting capability Engine 2 has the capability to support hazardous materials responses, technical rescue incidents, and provide advanced life support medical care.

“Together with a crew of skilled firefighters this truck optimizes our service capability and keeps our residents safer with the latest technology,” said Belmont Fire Chief David DeStefano at the dedication, joined by the Select Board’s Roy Epstein. “Based here at Station 2 this company protects half of the entire town with rapid response and efficient service.”

DeStefano thanked the firefighters for their commitment to the department, especially those who served on the committee that wrote the specifications for the apparatus: Assistant Chief Wayne Haley, Capt. Andrew Tobio, Capt. Robert Wollner, Lt. Gerrard Benoit and firefighter Ross Vona, as well as Belmont residents for their support in funding the purchase of the truck.

Belmont, Middlesex County Under Tornado Warning Until 1:45 PM Thursday

Photo: Tornado warning in Belmont

A Tornado Warning has been issued for Belmont and other communities in East central Middlesex County until 1:45 p.m. by the National Weather Service in Boston.

The NWS is advising everyone to take cover now. Move to a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If you are outdoors, in a mobile home, or in a vehicle, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris.

Flying debris will be dangerous to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be damaged or destroyed. Damage to roofs, windows, and vehicles will occur. Tree damage is likely.

After Extraordinary Year, Belmont Awards Police Chief With Extension, Pay Raise

Photo: James MacIsaac, Belmont Police Chief

A pandemic, nationwide civil rights protests and the challenges brought on by the position itself. The past year put most police chief under the spotlight. And according to town officials, Chief James MacIsaac took on the challenge and shined.

At its Monday night meeting, Aug. 16, the Belmont Select Board unanimously approved a merit increase of one and a half percent for MacIsaac retroactive to July 1, 2021 and agreed to extend his contract by two years with a new expiration date of Dec. 31, 2024. The increase brings his “all-in” salary to $191,354.91, according to Belmont Human Resources Director Shawna Healey.

Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin, who conducts the performance review of police chiefs, said unlike his previous review, “I had to look at it through a different lens given the abnormality of COVID and the challenges that that brought to the position.”

Shortly after MacIsaac started on January 2020, COVID hit, followed a couple months after, the country and police forces was dealing with the murder of George Floyd, all the while running a department from a temporary location while coordinating the move into the new Police Headquarters, noted Garvin.

“The challenges [MacIsaac] was facing in last year was challenges … former police chiefs 10 to 15 years to experience,” said Garvin. Despite working in that “whirlwind” as a first year police chief, “[MacIsaac] performed beyond expectation at an exemplary level, using the strengths that he has, given his personality and his years of experience with the force as the assistant chief.”

“He was able to … lead the community through all those challenges and my review [of his] last year’s performance was the highest it could be for an employee,” said Garvin, rating his performance a five.

“Thank you, Chief. I’m happy to extend you an additional two years,” said Select Board Chair Adam Dash. “Great work and I look forward to working with you further.”

Trapelo Road Condo Building Evacuated Friday Due To Structural Issues, 70 Left Homeless

Photo: The condominium building at 125 Trapelo Rd. evacuated Friday afternoon, Aug. 13 due to structural issues.

A seven floor 40-unit residential building in Belmont’s Cushing Square was evacuated at 1 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 13 after a cautionary inspection Thursday discovered large cracks in apartments on the top two floors that made the 58-year-old apartment block structurally unsafe for occupancy.

The brick and mortar building at 125 Trapelo Rd. across from the newly constructed Bradford apartments is not a threat to fall or see significant portions fall away, said Glenn Clancy, Belmont’s town engineer who was at the scene along with Belmont police and fire and several broadcast crews and three new helicopters overhead.

“But it’s not ready for residents to return,” said Clancy, saying that two independent building inspectors will be on the site Monday, Aug. 16, to begin a survey of the structural integrity of the site. “It will be up to those engineers to determine if the structure is safe for occupancy,” said Clancy, who will sign off on any new certificate of occupancy.

The Trapelo Road evacuation comes less than two months after the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida killing 98 residents. “[The Florida] event is one reason we are proceeding with extra caution here,” said Clancy.

The inspection by a Maine-based firm Thursday was prompted by a resident of the top floor who found large cracks in the walls and ceiling and alerted the landlord, said Clancy. The structural engineer observed the breaks and wrote a report to the building’s management company, Great North Property Management of Exeter, NH.

Clancy said the engineer told him she suspected the large number of cellular antennas and wireless electronic equipment on the roof to be the likely cause of the damage.

40 residents evacuated

When the severity of the report was known on Friday, the management company notified the town and Belmont Police and Fire responded. ”Firefighters searched the entire building and evacuated at least 40 residents home at the time of the incident,” said Belmont Fire Chief David DeStefano. “The natural gas service to the building was shut by National Grid and it was ascertained from the engineering firm that there was no risk to nearby buildings,” he said

According to assessors records, the building was completed in 1963 and at the time was the largest residential premises in town. It was bought in 2015 for $5,275,000 by 125 Trapelo LCC located on Clarendon Street in Boston. Town officials said about 70 people live at 125 Trapelo.

With the building closed for at least the weekend and likely longer, the concerns of town and state officials turned to the residents who were suddenly made homeless during a mid-August heatwave.

Pearl Risberg and Calvin Heimberg moved into their apartment on Thursday and were out of the building early Friday only to arrive back to their new home to find the door blocked by Belmont firefighters.

”Everything looked great when we moved in so we’re a little bummed,” said Risberg.

Another resident who thought it best not to give his name was watching Netflix on his couch on his day off when someone knocked on his door saying they were from Belmont Fire. “They told me there was a problem with the structure and we need to evacuate.” He would relocate with the other residents across Trapelo Road, some staying inside the lobby of the Bradford to get out of the 90 degree heat to hear updates from Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac.

“I’ll be staying with a friend for tonight, but after that … “, he said.

But for several residents new to the area or whose families are overseas, the prospects of finding a place to relocate to did not appear promising. The lucky ones were able to grab plastic bags filled with clothes or suitcases with computers and documentation. Several were carrying hot and scared pets wondering where they would be going. By 5 p.m., the MBTA supplied a bus to allow residents a chance to rest in an air conditioned space.

The Red Cross arrived only to determine the building was not closed due to a “natural disaster” before leaving.

The one thing in common with all the residents was their collective scorn for the property management firm.

”It’s crazy. It’s unbelievable. It’s been six hours and no-one has told us anything,” said one resident who was traveling with her cat, Oreo. “This is not our fault. [Great North] should be working with us but they are doing nothing.”

As the afternoon turned to evening, Great North’s on-site representative, senior property manager Robert Linney, would not provide the residents any information on alternative housing or compensation for other lodgings. Linney referred all inquires to the main office in New Hampshire. By 7 p.m., Belmont Police were leading some residents into building to retrieve computers and clothes they would need for the weekend.

State Rep. Dave Rogers arrived at 3 p.m. and coordinated with assistant town manager Jon Marshall, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the Salvation Army to provide shelter for the newly homeless. By 11 p.m., those remaining took the bus to a hotel to spend at least one night indoors.

“There is a core group that really needs help,” said Rogers. “There are long term issues with the building but right now we just want to solve the short term and that’s getting people a place to stay.”

Belmont Public Library Open As Cool Center Friday, Aug. 13

Photo: Cooling center at the Belmont Public Library Friday

Due to the current period of high heat and humidity, the Belmont Public Library, 336 Concord Ave., will be open as a community cooling center on Friday, Aug. 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. “We encourage everyone to stay cool and hydrated and to check on elderly friends and neighbors while following good social distancing practices,” said the town’s press release.

Remember if visiting the Belmont Public Library to follow all Covid-19 safety protocols and adhere to the current indoor mask mandate.

Beginning Monday, Concord Ave. Undergoing Street Construction At New High School

Photo: An image from the Belmont Police Department of the impacted location

With the high school wing of the new Belmont Middle and High School just weeks from opening in September, construction will get underway on Monday, June 28 on the new intersection and completing the road work connected to the high school on Concord Avenue, according to Belmont Police.

Police are advising motorists to avoid this area if possible.

The work will focus on the intersection of Goden Street and Concord Avenue where the entrance/exit for the new building will be located, including installing a new set of traffic lights at the intersection and modifying the center traffic Island in the location.

Witness IDs Teen/Preteen As Writer of Racist Graffiti At Wellington

Photo: The Wellington Elementary School

A resident told Belmont Police he witnessed a young man between 11 and 13 years old tagging a wall of the Wellington Elementary School where racist graffiti was discovered a few days later.

According to a statement by Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac released on Friday, April 2, an adult told police that on Saturday, March 28 at approximately 7 p.m., they observed the young man writing on the wall of the school. The witness asked the youth if he was responsible for graffiti on the wall near the flag pole.

Two days later, on March 30 at 4 p.m., Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan notified the Belmont Police that students discovered the graffiti that contained the words, “Math is F…ing (illegible) my ‘N-word’.”

At this time, the Belmont Police believe this youth was the one responsible forpage1image22307072

“The Belmont Public Schools and the Belmont Police emphasize that whether these words were written with malicious intent or out of ignorance, we are taking this incident very seriously and it is an act that must be strongly condemned. There is no place for hate or racism in Belmont,” said MacIsaac.

At this time, the Belmont Police Department is continuing its investigation.

The Belmont School Department has notified all families of this incident and is working with its Wellington team to discuss this incident with students in an age-appropriate manner.

McIsaac added that residents who have concerns or feel targeted by hate or racism may contact the Belmont Police or the Belmont Human Rights Commission at 617-993-2795 or email at Belmont.hrc@gmail.com.