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Beverly dedicates Elliott Chambers fire memorial

Posted by Caitlin Rung  July 2, 2010 10:04 AM

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Photos by Caitlin Rung

The memorial commemorating the 15  victims stands at the corner of Elliott and Rantoul streets surrounded by shrubs and benches.

More than 60 residents turned out Thursday night to pay tribute and make sure that the 15 people who tragically lost their lives in an arson-induced fire at a rooming house here 26 years ago are never forgotten.

The Elliott Chambers Fire Memorial, which was dedicated on the corner of Rantoul and Elliott streets, features a plaque on a large rock listing the names of the 15 people who died in the blaze in 1984.

George Didlake, who lost his brother, John, in the fire, spoke about his loss and the families of  the other  victims. Didlake urged those at the dedication to “Use this Fourth of July to celebrate their lives.”

To Danvers resident Tracie Novack, who also lost her brother, George Flynn, the memorial is a chance to pay tribute to the people who lived and died at the Elliott Chambers. Novack spoke about her brother and her hope that the memorial will bring peace to those who lost someone.

“I feel very good about today,” Novack said. “It gives people a real connection to where my brother was when the fire started. They can feel more connected to him.”

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Tracie Novack, whose brother George Flynn died in the Elliott Chambers fire, tearfully recalled his loss.

The Elliott Chambers rooming house, which was known to offer boarding to down-on-their-luck individuals and those who had been released from state mental hospitals, was set ablaze in the early morning of July 4, 1984. The flames raged through the rooming house, which authorities later stated was, “built to burn.”

The source of the fire were the gasoline-soaked newspapers that James B. Carver lit by the stairs. By the time firefighters arrived, the flames already had spread throughout the building and, for the 15 who died, it was already too late.

Carver was convicted of arson and 15 counts of second-degree murder, for which he is serving consecutive life sentences.

According to former city councilor John Burke, the memorial was paid for through funds raised from private donations and contributions from local businesses.

Burke, who is the president of the Elliott Chambers Fire Memorial Foundation, worked with fellow Beverly residents Amanda Mazzaglia and James Maroney to bring awareness of the tragic fire and pay tribute to the forgotten victims.

Burke, Mazzaglia, and Maroney all spoke at the dedication ceremony and handed out 15 roses for residents to place on the memorial. Also in attendance were state Representative Mary E. Grant, Beverly Fire Chief Paul Cotter, and Beverly Fire Captain James Maggiacomo.

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Beverly residents were encouraged to place roses by the memorial to remember each victim.




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