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Relatives: Man carries woman from burning building in Mission Hill, while another neighbor pulls fire alarm box

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  August 8, 2012 05:54 PM

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(Matt Rocheleau for

In the above video, Robbie Wilson describes how one man, a fellow tenant, carried his 79-year-old mother from a burning apartment building in Mission Hill early Wednesday morning, while another man, who lives at a home next door and owns both properties, used the old-fashioned method of pulling a nearby outdoor fire alarm box to alert authorities.

One man carried a 79-year-old woman from their burning apartment building in Mission Hill early Wednesday morning, while another man who lives at a home next door and owns both properties pulled an outdoor fire alarm box to alert authorities, according to relatives of fire victims and the landlord.

(Matt Rocheleau for
808 Parker St. in Mission Hill
Robbie Wilson, 56, said his mother Evelyn Wilson was rescued from the bedroom of her third-floor apartment by a tenant who lived on the second floor of the triple-decker at 808 Parker St.

Wilson said the man ran back inside the flame- and smoke-engulfed building to save her.

“The guy who saved my mother’s life, I went to him to thank him for what he did,” he said. “I said: ‘God bless you, man, thank you.’”

The two-alarm blaze, believed to have been started by the careless disposal of a cigarette on the first floor, broke out at about 3:20 a.m., Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said. He said two of the eight people displaced by the fire suffered non-life threatening injuries, including a man on the first floor who was hospitalized for burns to his arm.

Wilson said his mother, who will turn 80 years old on Friday, was the other person injured.

He visited her Wednesday morning at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where she was taken to be treated for smoke inhalation. Wilson said his mother recalled the terrifying moments before she was rescued.

“She told me: ‘I was ready to die,’” he said.

Wilson, his mother’s sisters Maureen Mucci, Marine Cotton and Shirley Rhodes and others were collecting personal belongings from the charred home Wednesday afternoon.

They said the first name of the man who rescued Evelyn Wilson was Rob, but they did not know his last name. They said they did not expect him to return to the building, which sustained an estimated 200,000 in damage.

They all identified the man who pulled the fire alarm box as next door neighbor, landlord and local youth football coach Ian Cotterell. City records show he owns the building that burned and the home next door.

Mucci, who said she is Cotterell’s mother-in-law, said he did not want to speak to media.

Cotterell, a Mission Hill native, is the chief operating officer and longtime coach for the Brookline-Jamaica Plain Patriots Pop Warner organization, which formed in the mid-1990s and struggled until recent years, when Cotterell helped turn the program around, including a run at a national title last Dec.

In Jan. 2011, Cotterell was nominated for an annual NFL award honoring coaches at all levels of the sport for “integrity, achievement, and leadership. ’’ Nominated alongside Cotterell during the award’s first year were 27 other coaches from across the country, including the prior season’s Super Bowl-winning coach, Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints.

MacDonald said he did not know the name of the man who pulled the alarm, but said the man lived next door and had told him he did not want to be interviewed.

Asked why the man who pulled the alarm used the old-fashioned method instead of calling with a landline or cell phone, MacDonald said: “He told me he knew it would go through.”

The fire department spokesman commended the man for his quick action. He said the fire alarm box system is connected by an underground telegraph system – the first ever established in the country – and that it does not require electricity to work. When pulled, a box directly and immediately alerts staff at an emergency response center in Fenway.

“If the electricity goes out and the cell towers go out and if you don’t speak English, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “If you pull this, we’ll come.”

He said there are at least a couple thousand of the outdoor alarm boxes across Boston and that some are located in every neighborhood of the city. About 600 businesses and large institutions are tied into the system, which is in “good shape” and maintained by city firefighters, he said.

“They’re not pulled or activated all that often,” MacDonald said. But, “It’s a redundancy and an added safety measure.”

Mucci sat in a patio chair placed along the sidewalk in front of Cotterell’s home Wednesday afternoon, when her cell phone rang. It was her hospitalized sister.

“Evelyn was crying,” Mucci said after the call ended. “She’s thankful to be alive.”

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
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(Matt Rocheleau for

A man who lives next door to where a fire broke out at 808 Parker St. in Mission Hill is believed to have pulled this nearby fire alarm box at the corner of Parker Street and Parker Hill Avenue. In the background is the burned and partially-boarded triple-decker apartment building.

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