State Honors Boatyard Foursome

            As the thick, black plume rose over the Mattapoisett Boatyard on August 19, no one watching could know the heroism taking place as four boatyard employees put their personal safety aside to rescue one of their own.

            On September 29, the Town of Mattapoisett took some time to recognize the remarkable work of first responders that took place when the boatyard formerly owned by Arthur McLean and now run by his son-in-law David Kaiser and grandson Ned was destroyed by an historic fire.

            The recognition ceremony, which took place on the grounds of the boatyard on Ned’s Point Road, was a combined acknowledgement. From the offices of Governor Baker, present was Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito; attending from the House of Representatives was Representative William Straus and representing the Senate was General Counsel Audra Riding.

            And while there were many people who helped save not only human life but surrounding properties, the moment belonged to four boatyard workers.

            Directly impacted by an explosion and subsequent roaring fire was boatyard employee Phil Macomber. Four of his coworkers, Jake Clarke, Roger Reed, Jacey Yancy and Trevellis Oliver saved Macomber that day, pulling him to safety and as Fire Chief Andrew Murray recalled, “stayed with him,” until EMS could reach the site.

            “To have no fatalities is because of these four individuals,” stated Murray. “They pushed through into a burning building, faced a monster. It isn’t something they were trained to do or expected to do. … You made the rescue, you guys are amazing.”

            Before the ceremony began, The Wanderer asked Macomber, who was in attendance, if he wished to share his thoughts. He eschewed that opening but said he was there to appreciate and support others. “Today isn’t about me, it’s about them,” he said, nodding towards the four rescuers.

            Before presenting citations to the boatyard staff, Polito shared her thoughts, commenting that the boatyard business is an institution in the community, an integral part of the coastline and a source of income and employment to the people in the area.

            “First responders, police and fire departments and other departments did what was needed with quick and able responses,” said Polito, who also expressed thanks for the tactical handling of the fire that prevented surrounding properties from igniting. Polito said she would continue to work with the town and agencies involved in cleanup and rebuilding to help ensure the business receives what it needs. She then called up Mattapoisett Fire Chief Andrew Murray to accept a certificate of recognition for outstanding service.

            For his part, Murray pointed to the firefighters who lined the back of the audience, saying how proud he is of his department and saying receiving the citation is “a great honor.” He then went on to say thank you to the 37 agencies that assisted that day and in subsequent days following the incident.

            “Beside the 37 agencies, there were 23 engines, 2 ladder trucks, 13 ambulances, 13 tank trucks, 18 fire chiefs, 8 specialized vehicles, and over 100 firefighters,” said Murray, also thanking Mattapoisett’s Highway Department, Harbormaster’s offices and the Water Department, as well as other town departments that came together to assist.

            Murray said that during emergencies, “A lot goes on behind the scene,” not the least of which are the years of training needed to become a professional firefighter. He thanked the town and the governor’s office for providing grant opportunities that help to fund some training programs.

            Straus presented a citation to Murray from the House of Representatives, as did Riding from the Senate. Both officials congratulated the first responders. Straus said he was humbled to be included in saying thank you and how much he appreciated the response of all concerned. Riding stated that it was a testament to the boatyard employees that there wasn’t a loss of life.

            Town Administrator Mike Lorenco, who opened the ceremony, offered these words: “August 19 will be a day that the residents of Mattapoisett will never forget. Although it was a very challenging day for the town, it was also a moment in which the entire community can be proud because of the acts of heroism displayed by so many.”

            Lorenco said the six-alarm fire over nearly three acres turned the boatyard into a barren wasteland. He acknowledged the skill of the Mattapoisett Fire Department in containing the blaze to the boatyard property and the vast outpouring of support, not only from mutual-aid cities and towns but from the residents of the town.

            Police Chief Jason King accepted a citation from Polito. In his remarks he said, “That day started … with officers chasing two persons through wooded areas … the successful arrest ended at 1:25 pm. At 1:29 pm, we received a 911 call for a boat explosion at the Mattapoisett Boatyard.

            “Whether its Fire, EMS or Police, when you put on that uniform you never know what your shift will bring; however, we all signed up for these professions and that takes a special person.” Turning to Murray, King said, “I commend the Mattapoisett Fire Chief Andrew Murray and his department for the professionalism and outstanding efforts on that day. Chief, it is an honor to work beside you and your department.”

            McLean said that he and his wife watched the fire consume the business that was their “life.” “Since 1962, this has been my life, I built a couple of those buildings myself,” he recalled. “It was almost as bad as losing a family member.” But his thoughts were primarily for the wellbeing of the workers and not knowing was difficult during the incident. McLean was also very grateful that the “neighbors” did not suffer fire damage.

            David Kaiser followed, “I’m honored for all the support, the community outpouring. This gathering should never have taken place; we lost everything, it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but the support not only here but from other places, Florida, California, the support has been amazing.”

            Kaiser also took the moment to commend the actions of the four boatyard workers. “Thank God they were there and stayed with Phil; the fact the Phil is here today makes this a completely different story,” he said, adding that as far as the business is concerned, within two weeks the Mattapoisett Boatyard was up and operational and continues to manage the business from its Route 6 yard. Supplies have been coming in from numerous sources, and fundraisers continue to pop up as businesses and organizations in town lend a hand.

            “This is what makes Mattapoisett Special,” said Kaiser. “People ask me are we going to rebuild – you betcha!”

By Marilou Newell

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