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Two Mass. Firefighters Die in Blaze

December 4, 1999

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) _ Two firefighters were killed and four were feared lost while battling a fire in an abandoned industrial building Friday night, authorities said.

Police confirmed two deaths, and family members of all six firefighters were notified and asked to gather at a local church, said a Worcester Fire Department captain who declined to give his name. All six were feared dead, he said.

State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said the first two firefighters went into the five-story building together and got lost. Four more went into the building tethered together and they, too, became lost, he said.

``This is obviously an extremely tragic situation,″ Coan said. ``The obvious hurt that is on the faces and in the minds of these firefighters from Worcester and the surrounding towns is just unbelievable.″

All six of the missing were from the Worcester Fire Department. Three hundred firefighters from surrounding towns helped fight the fire.

Authorities said they had not yet determined the cause of the blaze, which continued to burn into the night.

The building, which once was home to a cold storage business, had become a refuge for homeless people who built fires there, witnesses told firefighters, according to the fire department captain.

The brick building near the Union Station train depot was close enough to Interstate 290 that firefighters poured water on the blaze from a fire truck parked on the highway.

The highway was closed in both directions.

Clergy were called to the scene to counsel firefighters and families that had gathered near the blaze.

As television and radio stations broadcast reports of the fire, firefighters asked reporters to borrow their cell phones to call their families to tell them they were OK.

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