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Worcester Marks 15th Anniversary Of Cold Storage Warehouse Fire Tragedy

WORCESTER (CBS/AP) — It's a somber day in Worcester as the city marks the 15th anniversary of a fire that claimed the lives of six firefighters.

A ceremony was held Wednesday evening at the Franklin Street Fire station, which sits on the site of what was once the Worcester Cold Storage & Warehouse Company.

Investigators said the fire on December 3, 1999 was started by two homeless people.

1999 Worcester Firefighters
(WBZ-TV graphic)

Lt. Thomas Spencer, Lt. Timothy Jackson Sr., Lt. James Lyons III, and firefighters Jeremiah Lucey, Paul Brotherton and Joseph T. McGuirk died after becoming trapped in the inferno.

1999 Worcester Firefighters
(WBZ-TV graphic)

A moment of silence was held at 6:13 p.m., the moment the first alarm was sounded.

The first firefighters entered the warehouse to search for possible occupants, but the man and woman who were later charged with starting the fire had already left the building. Other firefighters then became trapped while trying to rescue their colleagues.

Spencer's son, Daniel, is now 28 and a firefighter serving at the same Grove Street station where his father worked and where a photo of Thomas Spencer still hangs by the front door next to those of the other firefighters who died.

Daniel Spencer told the Telegram and Gazette of Worcester he remembers going with his mother to the fire scene 15 years ago and seeing hundreds of people gathered in mourning.

"I just didn't realize the scope of it until I got there," he said.

Worcester firefighters
Children of Worcester firefighters killed in Cold Storage warehouse fire in 1999. (WBZ-TV)

A scholarship fund established in memory of the firefighters has raised $644,000 and awarded 266 scholarships to Worcester high school students over the years.

Actor and comedian Denis Leary created a nonprofit foundation after the fire that donates money to help fire departments purchase the best possible firefighting equipment. A Worcester native, Leary was Lucey's cousin and a childhood friend of Spencer.

John Sullivan, a deputy Worcester fire chief who as a lieutenant responded to the fire in 1999, said the painful memories never diminish.

Related: Firefighter Technology Inspired By Tragedy

"There's no way to avoid the loss and the grief that comes along with the anniversary every year," he said.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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