NPS Recognizes Concord Fire Department for Saving Historic Structure

group of firefighters at the Concord Fire Department
Concord FD Chief Mark Cotreau (center holding plaque) with firefighters (front row, dark blue shirts), NPS structural fire program staff and regional structural fire managers (gray shirts), and Minute Man NHP staff.

NPS / Don Boucher

You hope you’ll never need to call the local fire department to extinguish a structural fire in your park. However, if needed, you want to know that the department has skilled firefighters to extinguish the fire and hopefully save the structure. You want to know that the department has the proper firefighting equipment and training to do their job well. And you hope they have a solid understanding of the significance of the structure to our nation’s heritage.

Fortunately, Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, Massachusetts, can count on their local fire department, the Concord Fire Department. The park has relied on the department’s expertise more than once to save The Wayside: Home of Authors.

The first time the park needed the Concord Fire Department was on August 25, 2012, when a fire ignited on the roof of the structure; then they responded again on February 24, 2014, when a fire started as a result of soldering or hot work during renovation.

To recognize their professionalism on behalf of the National Park Service, Nancy Nelson, Minute Man National Historical Park superintendent, and Hal Spencer, structural fire branch chief, presented the Concord Fire Department with a plaque on September 11, 2014.

The Wayside: Home of Authors was an important save due to its significance as a National Historic Landmark, a distinction held by only 2,500 historic places in the country. According to the NHL website, “National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.”

The Wayside: Home of Authors was designated as an NHL on December 29, 1962 for its significance as the former home of three acclaimed 19th century authors and their families — Bronson Alcott’s family, including his daughter Louisa May Alcott; Nathaniel Hawthorne; and Harriet Lothrop, who wrote under the pseudonym Margaret Sidney.

British soldiers also marched past the core of the home on their approach to the North Bridge during the Battle of 1775, the opening battle of the Revolutionary War.

Protecting The Wayside did not occur by happenstance, but through careful planning by the park’s management team and collaboration with the Northeast Region structural fire manager.

  • In 1994, the park’s collection management plan (CMP) identified The Wayside as “a unique resource which has great potential for an uncontrollable fire. ” The need for “a full professional survey” of fire detection and suppression systems for the structure was incorporated in the CMP and fire protection systems were installed in the structure.
  • Proper inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) of the system was performed annually. As designed, the system was in place and ready 24/7 to automatically alert the local fire department, which it did in 2012, when a roof fire started. The fire activated a single sprinkler head, keeping the fire in check until the Concord Fire Department arrived on scene within seven minutes.
  • The park has cultivated good working relationships with responding forces for many years. Concord Fire Department personnel had been given walkthroughs of the structure and were familiar with its historic significance. As a result, the firefighters were careful to minimize the damage to the structure, while extinguishing the fire.
  • The park took hot work permitting seriously and required the contractor working on the house to have two fire extinguishers ready in case a fire occurred. When the fire occurred, the contractors promptly extinguished the fire with the available extinguishers. Concord firefighters ensured the fire was completely extinguished with the use of a thermal imaging device.

If you’re wondering what you can do to ensure your park is ready when the unthinkable happens, contact your regional structural fire manager to discuss your questions and concerns.

To begin your fire prevention mission now, learn more about hot work permitting.