Fire captain suffered serious burns during dramatic rescue at fire that claimed life of resident

Capt. Steve DesRuisseaux, a 22-year veteran firefighter, is recovering at Mass General Hospital following surgery, lucky to be alive.

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Manchester firefighters battled a three-alarm blaze on Dutton Street Saturday night. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

MANCHESTER, NH ‒ A Manchester fire captain suffered serious burns and fell 10-15 feet during a dramatic rescue mission Saturday night at a Dutton Street house fire in which one resident died, and another was injured.

Capt. Steve DesRuisseaux, a 22-year veteran firefighter, is recovering at Mass General Hospital following surgery, lucky to be alive.

“He’s in good spirits and aware of everything that happened,” said Manchester Fire Battalion Chief David Flurey Sunday. Capt. DesRuisseaux suffered second- and third-degree burns over 35-40 percent of his body while rescuing others from the building, actions described by Flurey as “heroic and without hesitation.”

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Capt. Steve DesRiousseux. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

“If not for Captain DesRuisseaux’s actions I think we’d be having a different interview right now,” Flurey said Sunday afternoon. “The outcome would have been even more tragic.”

According to Flurey, Engine 11 was returning from a medical call when the crew was notified at 6:08 p.m. of the fire, and arrived two minutes later to 8-10 Dutton St., a three-story multi-family residence. First-responders encountered heavy fire conditions on all three floors. Capt. DesRuisseaux noticed residents trapped on the third floor and sprung into action.

About 10 minutes later, Capt. DesRuisseaux was on the second-floor porch in the midst of a rescue operation when he was overcome by a flashover – the sudden spontaneous combustion of flammable materials  –  and was engulfed in flames.

According to Flurey, Capt. DesRuisseaux completed the rescue and then, in an effort to save himself, attempted a “ladder bail,” a maneuver in which a firefighter must descend a ladder to safety in a life-threatening situation. 

“We’re trained that if stuck in a situation like the one Capt. DesRuisseaux was in that, in order to self-rescue, you jump out onto a ground ladder,” Flurey explained. 

In this instance, while attempting the ladder bail under heavy fire conditions Capt. Des Ruisseaux’s airpack strap got hung-up on a ladder rung.

Realizing Capt. DesRuisseaux was trapped, Lt. Scott Brassard, a 13-year fire department veteran, began climbing up the ladder to free Capt. DesRuisseaux. However, the ladder location was in the midst of heavy flames and Firefighter Josh Charpentier, an 18-year veteran of the department, determined that knocking the ladder away from the fire was necessary to save them both from the flames. Both firefighters subsequently fell 10 to 15 feet to the ground.

Flurey said all three firefighters are to be commended for their actions, a chain of events that undoubtedly prevented any additional fatalities. Despite an ankle injury, Lt. Brassard continued to work the remainder of the fire and was later treated and released from the hospital with a sprained ankle. 

Capt. DesRuisseaux led the effort among his fellow firefighters which ultimately rescued six residents of the building who were trapped – including a young girl, a teenage girl, three men and one woman. One person was found dead on the second-floor back porch, according to a report issued early Sunday by the Manchester Fire Marshal’s office. Another resident was transported with injuries to a local hospital.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the fire marshal’s office as well as Manchester Police. The name of the victim was withheld pending autopsy results and notification of next of kin, Flurey said. An autopsy is planned for Nov. 8. 

“Our hearts are heavy at the loss of life and our condolences go out to the family of the victim,” Flurey said.

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Heavy fire was visible when Engine 11 arrived just after 6 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2021. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

Mutual aid was provided by several surrounding fire departments, including Allenstown, Auburn, Bedford, Concord, Derry, Goffstown, Hooksett, Hudson, Litchfield, Londonderry, Merrimack and Nashua.

Flurey also wanted to extend gratitude to the Boston Fire Department for stepping up to assist in a big way.

They secured hotels for Capt. DesRuisseaux’s family and members of Manchester Fire Department so they could remain close by, and also provided Visa gift cards to his family. 

“They met our assistant chief at the entrance of Mass General before Steve’s arrival and they’re in the process of organizing a charity hockey game between Boston and Manchester fire departments to raise money for Steve and for the Boston Firefighters Burn Foundation,” Flurey said. 

They also provided transportation Sunday for Capt. DesRuisseaux’s son, who was scheduled to play in a hockey game in Dorchester.  

Although it’s early in the investigation, it appears the fire originated on the first floor of the three-story six-unit structure, Flurey said. 

“We did hear working fire detectors going off. At this time we’re unaware if they were in every apartment,” Flurey said. He expects the building to be deemed a complete loss, as the entire roof and all three floors were compromised by the fire. 

Flurey explained that it is not surprising how quickly the fire escalated based on the older construction of the building.

“Prior to our arrival, there’s cell phone footage of heavy fire conditions on all three floors, what we call the Alpha and David, corner, or front right corner,” Flurey said. “Older buildings in Manchester are ‘balloon frame’ and so it doesn’t take much for a fire to spread quickly. The older construction is much more difficult for us to fight, as fires grow faster and there are more pockets for fire to travel in compared to modern construction.” 

Flurey said in the aftermath, it’s clear that all those who battled the fire went above and beyond.

“The efforts and actions in particular of Captain DesRuisseaux led to the rescue of six people, a testament to the professional that he is. He knew he was putting his life on the line and he didn’t hesitate, knowing there were people who weren’t getting out without his actions,” Flurey said.

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About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!