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No sign of body at site of fatal Worcester fire

Authorities seek man who was reported trapped

A rose was wrapped into the fence at the back of the burned three-decker in Worcester where firefighter Jon D. Davies Sr. died. CHRISTINA PETERSON/WORCESTER TELEGRAM & GAZETTE/Worcester Tel

WORCESTER- After three grim days of searching, investigators combing through the rubble of a collapsed three-decker in Worcester have found no body, deepening the mystery surrounding the blaze that killed a veteran firefighter.

Jon D. Davies Sr. had entered the building, along with a fellow firefighter, to search for a man reported to be trapped.

But the office of Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said yesterday that no body was found among the twisted and charred debris at 49 Arlington St.

And now authorities want to talk to the male occupant who has been unaccounted for since the raging fire tore through the three-decker early Thursday.

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Davies, 43, a father of three, rushed into that inferno, believing the man was trapped inside based on information from another tenant.

Davies did not make it out of the building; he was crushed when the back portion of the wall and roof came crashing down on him.

Authorities want to interview the man, whose identity they know but have not released, as a potential witness, according to the statement issued by Early’s office yesterday.

The mystery man’s whereabouts have perplexed authorities and have caused even more angst in a city where six firefighters lost their lives 12 years ago under similar circumstances - rushing into a burning cold storage warehouse on Franklin Street where they believed people were trapped inside. Davies had been one of the first firefighters to respond to the 1999 fire.

A firehouse and a memorial were built where the warehouse stood, and it was from that Franklin Street station that Davies responded to Thursday’s fire, as a member of Rescue 1.

Authorities are still working to determine the cause of the Arlington Street blaze last week and why the back portion of the structure collapsed, killing Davies and trapping his partner, Brian Carroll, who was hospitalized briefly.

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Davies’s family has finally gathered for his funeral. One son was stationed in Afghanistan and on his way home, by coincidence, rode in the same flight as Governor Deval Patrick, who was returning from a trade mission to Chile and Brazil.

Patrick said Jon Davies Jr. “was dignified, composed, and, I think, understandably still in shock.’’

“It was a terrible tragedy,’’ Patrick said. “I think right now my thoughts are mainly with the family and with all the firefighters who are sharing their grief.’’

He said family members met Jon Davies Jr. on the tarmac, along with State Police, National Guard members, and firefighters.

Yesterday, other firefighters stood in front of the city’s three Stop & Shop stores and collected donations for holiday toys and food during their annual Toys for Tots and food drive.

This year the drive is dedicated to Jon Davies.

“People have just been fantastic. This drive was going to be canceled because of everything that has happened, but the community has really responded,’’ said Brian Foley, 55, a recently retired firefighter who spent 34 years on the department, including 19 years as a member of Rescue 1.

“I really can’t say enough about Jon,’’ he said. “He was a special person and a special firefighter.’’

Mourners continued to visit the memorial in front of the Franklin Street station, piling flowers and flags in honor of Davies.

“The tragedy that happened 12 years ago, I knew some of the families, and some of the firefighters’ kids I taught,’’ said Norman White, 64, who recently retired from the nearby Auburn school system.

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“This city knows the sacrifices firefighters make,’’ he said at the site of the memorial. “. . . If they think someone is in there, they go in to save their lives. I wish it wasn’t for naught, and I wish Mr. Davies was still alive.’’


Brian R. Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBallou.