‘He will always be our hero’: Family of hospitalized Worcester firefighter says fallen lieutenant saved his life

"Thank you is all we can say."

Investigators work the scene of an overnight fire that killed Lt. Jason Menard, Wednesday.
Investigators work the scene of an overnight fire that killed Lt. Jason Menard, Wednesday. –Christine Peterson/Worcester Telegram & Gazette via AP

When the flames of a four-alarm fire left a crew of Worcester firefighters trapped on the third floor of a triple-decker home, Lt. Jason Menard helped one get to the stairs and escape the inferno.

Then, he returned to rescue another, helping him out the window — a last act of bravery before Menard, a 39-year-old father of three, lost his life battling the Wednesday-morning blaze at 7 Stockholm St., officials said.

The family of 26-year-old firefighter Chris Pace says Menard threw Pace out of the third-floor window to save his life, WCVB reports.

“Without him, Chris would not be here,” Tiffany Hansmar, Pace’s sister-in-law, told the station Wednesday night, her voice quavering. “He would not be here with his son. He would not be here with my sister, who is expecting her second.”

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Pace, who joined the department over a year ago after serving in the Army overseas, was among the crew from Ladder 5 who entered the burning home after 1 a.m. in response to reports of a trapped resident and baby in the building, officials said.

“Lt. Menard heroically and selflessly saved his crew, helping a probationary firefighter to the stairs, and returning to rescue another trapped firefighter, assisting him out the window,” Fire Chief Michael Lavoie said. “Fire conditions overtook the third floor at this time and Lt. Menard was unable to escape.”

According to scanner transmissions between firefighters at the scene, the crew was stuck in a third-floor stairwell.

At one point in the recording, there’s a report of “a firefighter (who) fell out the back of a building and he’s on the ground.”

Lt. Jason Menard —Worcester Fire Department

Menard and three firefighters were brought to UMass Medical Center, Lavoie said. Two were released later Wednesday morning while a third was in serious but stable condition.

Officials said one woman was also brought to the hospital with serious injuries. All other occupants were accounted for, according to the department.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Pace, who was hospitalized Wednesday night, “has 13 fractures, eight broken ribs, third degree burns all over his body, chest tubes because his chest (is) bleeding, and a collapsed lung,” Hansmar told WCVB.

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“Getting that phone call in the morning was heartbreaking,” she said.

Pace, who has a 1-year-old son, got married two months ago and his wife, Mellissa, is expecting a second child in April, according to Hansmar.

She said her family is extremely grateful for Menard and what he did that night, WCVB reports.

“To us, he will always be our hero, and we are very thankful because [instead] of one loss, it would have been two,” Hansmar said. “Thank you is all we can say.”

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