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Firefighters use thermal imaging to pull Brookline man from burning home

Union Leader Correspondent

June 25. 2014 11:27PM
Brookline Fire Department Assistant Chief Dave Flannery, right, and Lt. JP Royea, along with firefighter Phil Soleski are being hailed as heroes after rescuing an unconscious Greg Wilson, age 22 from his burning home on Laurel Crest Drive using a thermal imaging camera due to the heavy black smoke and poor visibility. Wilson was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital and remains in the ICU. (Kathleen Baglio Humphreys/Union Leader Correspondent)

BROOKLINE — A thermal-imaging camera likely saved the life of a 22-year-old that firefighters rescued from a burning home Tuesday evening, fire officials said.

Assistant Fire Chief Dave Flannery was the first to arrive at 30 Laurel Crest Drive; firefighters had been alerted that someone was trapped in the basement.

“We got in about 10 feet and I picked up the victim with the camera,” Flannery said Wednesday of Greg Wilson. “It looked like he was right in front of me but he was still about another eight feet away and we continued on until I could get my hand on him and we dragged him out to the fresh air. After we got him outside, we saw him gasp for air, which was all the relief in the world.”

Wilson is in serious condition in the intensive care unit, St. Joseph’s Hospital spokesman Sheila Caron said.

Wilson’s 16-year old sister, Alexis Wilson, was able to escape the flames on the first floor of the two-story home. Their parents, Bruce and Lisa Wilson, were not home at the time of the fire.

Flannery, a 15-year veteran of the department, described the rescue as a “team effort,” with firefighters Phil Soleski and Lt. JP Royea pulling Wilson to safety as flames ripped through the ceiling.

“It seemed like an eternity, but it was maybe a minute or two,” Flannery said. “It would have taken a lot longer without the camera because of the smoke and visibility inside was very poor.”

Fire Chief Charlie Corey said the attic collapsed into the building, taking down the second and first floors. He said investigators will have to dig through six to eight feet of debris to determine how the blaze started. The fire is not considered suspicious.

The four-alarm fire was reported at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday. Units from Brookline, Hollis, Milford, Wilton, Amherst, Townsend, Mass., and Pepperell, Mass., responded. No firefighters were injured.

Fire crews remained on the scene putting out hot spots until 2 a.m. Wednesday. Three hours later, they had to return when the fire rekindled.

“It’s tough,” Corey said, adding: “Even though this is not our house, we can feel their pain. There is nothing to salvage.”

A Wilson Family Recovery Fund has been set-up at TD Bank in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Donations of essentials will be accepted at the Cozy Tea Cart on Route 13 in Brookline.

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