HOLYOKE HERO MOURNED

Man made sure his fam­ily es­caped fire

Boston Herald - - NEWS - By MARIE SZANISZLO — marie.szaniszlo@boston­her­ald.com

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.”

PHOTO, TOP LEFT, COUR­TESY OF WANDA BARTA; STAFF PHOTO, TOP RIGHT, BY CHRIS CHRISTO; PHOTO, LEFT, COUR­TESY OF CAPT. KEVIN CAV­AGNAC/HOLYOKE FIRE DEPT.; PHOTO, ABOVE, BY MARK M. MUR­RAY/THE REPUB­LI­CAN

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.

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