HOLYOKE HERO MOURNED
Man made sure his family escaped fire
HOLYOKE — A 30-yearold man who got everyone safely out of their burning home, only to perish when he rushed back in for two little dogs, was mourned as a humble, selfless hero by his friends and family yesterday.
Ismael “Grillo” Torres managed to get his mother, his 12-year-old son, his nephew and his cousin outside in Saturday’s chilly morning air before running back into 113 Newton St. to get their Pomeranian, Lola, and their Chihuahua, Puty, said his aunt, Wanda Barta, who lives next door.
“My sister woke me up, pounding on my door … ‘Fire, fire, fire!’ ” Barta said. “By then, we thought everyone was out, until we realized my nephew was still inside, and we all panicked. The firemen were there. We just watched everything burn, watched my sister waiting for her son to come out.”
Holyoke police were driving by about 5 a.m. when they saw four people outside and heavy smoke coming from the two-story, brick home, said fire Capt. Kevin Cavagnac.
“The smoke was so heavy, they couldn’t even get to the front door,” Cavagnac said. “So they went around the building to try to get in, but flames were coming out the back … Fire engulfed the building very quickly. It was going across the roofs.”
Firefighters contained the three-alarm blaze to the row houses at 113, 111 and 109 Newton St. by using a chain saw to cut a “trench” in the roof between 109 and the next row house, he said.
In all, it took about nine hours for three dozen firefighters from Holyoke and three other departments to put out the blaze, which left 12 people homeless, Cavagnac said; another 24 were displaced because utilities had to temporarily be turned off on the whole block of attached homes. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Yesterday, Barta remembered her nephew, a father of four, as “the most humble, respectful person.”
“I’ve never had a disagreement with him, ever,” she said. “We’re a very tight family. Since the fire, it’s taken two days before my sister (Torres’ mother) would even eat.”
The house belonged to their mother, Barta said.
“Now, everything is gone,” she said, “Grillo, pictures, everything.”
Susannah Gregory, vice president and general manager of Gregory Manufacturing, which makes medical supplies, where Torres worked for six years, said, “He was so respectful, kind, willing to do whatever was asked of him ... His death is a huge loss for this company. You could hear a pin drop in here today. He’s not replaceable. He could do everything. And he did it for his kids. He really loved them and his mom.”
Crystal Montanez, Torres’ 17-year-old neighbor, stood in yesterday’s cold drizzle, staring at the makeshift shrine across the street from the charred remains of his home.
“He always put everyone else first,” Montanez said. “He never let anybody down.”
FATAL FIRE: Ismael ‘Grillo’ Torres, pictured top left, died early Saturday after making sure family members were safely removed from a fire among row houses on Newton Street in Holyoke.