As past readers of these “Good Deeds” articles know sometimes the subject matter deals with real estate and home ownership issues. Other times a current event, a matter involving history or just something of interest is written about. With this article due I started looking at and writing about Groundhog Day which occurred on February 2, 2021. This is the day a groundhog, most notably Punxsutawney Phil, comes out of his home and predicts how much time is left of winter. There is even a movie film entitled “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray where everyday he wakes up reliving the same day over and over again. How many of us have felt that this is what has been taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic?
There is a saying “Life is what happens as you are making plans”. My plan and words for the “Good Deeds” article went right out the door when I received a call at 6:50 A.M. on Saturday morning February 6, 2021. I will get into what happened – but this “Good Deeds” message first and foremost is “Thank you to the Dedham Fire Department for responding to and knocking down a fire that took place at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds Building.”
That early Saturday morning call I received was to get to the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds building in Dedham. There was not only a fire alarm sounding but there was a fire in the building. The fast and timely response of the Dedham Fire Department was crucial in preventing what could have been a disastrous fire at the beautiful and historic Registry building in Dedham square. No one got hurt in the fire. No firefighter nor other first responders got hurt. Property can be replaced but individuals not getting hurt or worse is what is most important.
How many times do firefighters respond to fire alarms going off and it was nothing? Not in the case of this call to the Registry building during the early hours of a Saturday morning. Firefighters, police officers and all first responders have to be ever vigilant and on top of these calls because the situations they walk in to may not be “false” or “routine”. In this case what was later to be determined to be an electrical fire caused by a light fixture ballast was taking place in a first-floor basement area of the Registry building. The firefighters of the Dedham Fire Department were on top of things as they came into the Registry Building using their training and skills. The fire personnel did a wonderful job in containing the fire and putting the fire out. You also see the work the Fire department does after a fire is put out. The firefighters start sorting through debris, putting items on a separate tarp while other fire personnel as well as police personnel start reviewing evidence left behind by the fire. Thank you to Dedham Deputy Police Chief Mike Buckley and Massachusetts State Police Detective Sergeant Tom Berteletti of the Office of the State Fire Marshall for their admirable professionalism and thoroughness after the fire was put out.
The words I kept repeating when I was at the Registry the morning of the fire was “It could have been worse.” These are the words I continue to repeat when asked since about the fire. Some might say what is the big deal of putting out a fire at the Registry of Deeds Building. As Register of Deeds with a responsibility to make sure land records get recorded and preserved that deal with the biggest asset most of us have, our homes, my biggest concern and fear over the years has been the Registry of Deeds due to fire burning down. Many hours of staff time have been spent looking at disaster recovery and business continuity planning.
This beautiful and historic edifice built in 1903 has received extensive repairs and renovations culminating with a building rededication in 2019. A fire that destroyed this building would be a loss from a historical and preservationist perspective. But what about the records, indexes and land information dating back to Norfolk County’s founding in 1793? What about the modernization initiatives that have brought computers, servers and other technological equipment into the Registry Building? Be assured the records have been backed up on off-site computers as well as put on microfilm that is also stored at off-site facilities. However, the business impact of not having a Registry of Deeds Building in a key component of our economy, the real estate sector, would be incalculable. Buyers of homes, sellers of homes, lenders and banks, carpenters, developers, house builders, real estate brokers, attorneys, title examiners, engineers, house appraisers, home inspectors, tradesman and so many others have livelihoods that depend on what takes place at the Registry of Deeds Building. So, to me putting out a fire at the Registry of Deeds Building is a real big deal as it saved the Registry of Deeds Building and all that takes place, as well as the ripple effects of what takes place, in that building.
My thanks to all first responders everywhere for what you do everyday especially with the difficulties the Coronavirus pandemic has brought on. I am so grateful to the Dedham Fire Department for their professionalism in putting out this fire. In thanking these first responders that morning I could tell that they felt they were “Just doing their job”. For the Dedham firefighters it may be just doing their jobs but the effect of what they prevented is so much more. The firefighters of Dedham did and do their jobs exceptionally well. THANK YOU DEDHAM FIRE DEPARTMENT.