On Saturday July 22, as part of this summer’s Lowell Walks series, Lowell Fire Department Capt. Jason Strunk led 98 people on a two hour tour touching on many of the major fires in the city’s history from the northern part of downtown up into the Acre/Little Canada. This post includes a slideshow of photos from the walk, followed by historic photos of some of the fires posted by Capt. Strunk on the Lowell Firefighting Facebook page.
Because the stories are so great, I also included several video clips so you can hear them from Capt. Strunk himself.
The walk kicked off at the Visitors Center on Market Street and headed up Shattuck Street then to Merrimack. At JFK Plaza, Capt. Strunk talked about a series of fires that occurred in the buildings near the Merrimack and Dutton intersection, where the Speedway gas station now stands.
From the Associates Hall April 28, 1924 fire, which killed Capt. Edward Cunningham who was crushed under a falling wall of bricks:
From the Wentworth Block fire June 9, 1926:
Next we headed up Moody Street, past LFD headquarters and cut across Father Morissette Blvd. to the Lawrence Mills. I remember the huge March 23, 1987 Lawrence Mills fire pretty well. I was 10-years-old and my neighbor heard about it on the police scanner and we all piled in the car to go check it out.
From that fire:
Capt. Strunk talked both about that fire — the largest in Lowell history AND a fire two years later in the same complex.
After that we headed back across Father Morissette and up to Merrimack Street to the former St. Jean Baptiste Church, which sustained a fire during mass on Nov. 21, 1912
Across the street from the church is an empty grassy lot on Decatur Street that once housed a building that became the site of the deadliest fire in Lowell history on March 5, 1982 — 8 people, including 5 children died in the early morning arson. I wrote a story about that fire for the 30th anniversary, which you can read here: Decatur Street Fire
We headed back toward downtown, and along one of the canal bridges on Merrimack Street where we found the plate for a “dry hydrant.” Capt. Strunk said they were unique to Lowell. The firefighters could just lift the plate, lower their hose in and suck up as much water as they needed. This plate will be removed when the bridge is fixed as part of the city’s TIGER grant, but it will be given to the LFD and preserved.
Capt. Strunk paused on the bridge to talk about urban renewal and fires in the Little Canada neighborhood.
Our final stop was the Pollard Memorial Library, the site of a significant fire on March 1, 1915.
Find the full schedule of Lowell Walks events here: Lowell Walks Schedule