Peabody Mourns Loss of Firefighter James Rice
The 10-year veteran died from injuries sustained during three-alarm blaze on Hancock Street Friday afternoon.
Firefighter Jim Rice, a 10-year veteran of the department, has died from injuries suffered while fighting the three-alarm blaze on Hancock Street on Friday afternoon.
Peabody Fire Chief Steve Pasdon, speaking during a press conference late Friday afternoon, said Rice was injured between the first and second floors fighting the fire, which was reported at 1:24 p.m. Shortly after firefighters entered the building, there was a report of a firefighter down.
Fire crews were able to rescue Rice from the building and he was taken to Salem Hospital where he died later from his injuries. The nature of those injuries has not been officially released yet.
Pasdon, making several attempts to maintain his composure during the press conference, said Friday he was aware that Rice took in some "toxic fumes" while inside the building.
An autopsy is being conducted by the state Medical Examiner's Office.
Rice, 42, leaves behind a wife and three children. The chief said the Fire Department and community as a whole will miss Firefighter Rice.
“As a fire chief, I have 100 firefighters that work under me... I can say Firefighter James Rice was liked and loved by everybody. He was a very popular firefighter and also a very popular man in the community," said the chief.
Pasdon said the fire started in a second-floor apartment. Residents of the building told reporters that the power went out shortly before the fire.
Firefighters were able to get the blaze under control within 90 minutes, said Pasdon.
State Fire Marshal Steve Coan, extending his condolences to Rice's family and the department Friday night, said the fire is under investigation and will be conducted with his office, the Peabody Fire Department and the ATF.
While it was too early to speculate on the cause of the fire Friday night, Coan said, he and fire officials announced Saturday that arson had been ruled out. The investigation, which had continued through the night, was still ongoing.
Coan said a resident was also injured in the fire and was taken to a hospital. That person is in good condition and did not suffer life-threatening injuries.
Pasdon told reporters during another press conference Saturday that the family is coping the best they can.
“I’m sure you can understand they’re devastated by the loss of a tremendous human being -- a great dad, husband, brother, son -- but considering everything they’re facing, they’re holding up remarkably well," Pasdon told reporters. "And I’m really impressed with that family and how they pulled together.”
Rice's was the first death in the line of duty in several years for the Fire Department.
A growing, makeshift memorial of bouquets, candles and Teddy Bears now occupies a spot outside the West Peabody Fire Station, which housed Rice's unit, Engine 5.
A memorial fund for Rice and a separate fund for the displaced residents have been set up at North Shore Bank.