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    Teen, 3 others killed in weekend blazes in Mass.

    Winchendon man, Chelmsford pair die

    A makeshift shrine of candles, flowers, stuffed animals, and messages on posters was set up outside the Holyoke home where 15-year-old Halee Hilton died in a fire early Saturday morning.
    A makeshift shrine of candles, flowers, stuffed animals, and messages on posters was set up outside the Holyoke home where 15-year-old Halee Hilton died in a fire early Saturday morning.

    HOLYOKE — Halee Hilton celebrated her 15th birthday last month and was excited about her new bulldog puppy named Georgia.

    But the high school freshman who loved playing volleyball, singing pop tunes, hairstyling, and jazz dancing died just before dawn Saturday, along with her puppy and another dog, in a fire that started near a wood-burning stove in her family’s Glen Street home.

    The teen was one of four people who lost their lives in weekend fires: A couple was killed in their Chelmsford condominium, and a 70-year-old man died in his Winchendon home.


    Halee was “very smart, very good in school,” said her uncle, David Hilton, Sunday afternoon as he stood outside the remains of her home. “I know she was loved. The pouring out of people that showed up [at a vigil Saturday] was incredible.”

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    Last Wednesday, Halee Hilton had visited the Chicopee home of her uncle and his wife, Debra, and talked about how thrilled she was with Georgia, the couple said.

    “It’s tragic,” Debra Hilton said. “I just had to come and see, for closure.”

    Halee Hilton’s mother was rescued from the fire, which was reported around 6:30 a.m. Her father was working at the time and not in the home, and her older sister, Brittany, 21, does not live there, said David and Debra Hilton.

    The blaze appeared to be accidental, as was the case with fatal fires in Chelmsford and Winchendon, fire officials said. Authorities did not release the causes of any of the fires.


    Holyoke Fire Lieutenant Thomas Paquin said firefighters found Hilton on the second floor.

    The fire late Saturday at Woodcrest Condominiums on Littleton Road in Chelmsford killed two people.

    “I believe it was a bedroom,” Paquin said. “It was all burnt out, so it’s hard to say.”

    The Hiltons’ two-story, bungalow-style house was a total loss.

    Sunday afternoon, three poster boards — yellow, neon green, and pink — hanging from police caution tape at the Hilton home were covered with messages and photos of Halee.

    “Rock the heavens gorgeous,” one inscription read.


    Kevin Rodgers, 17, who was standing nearby with a group of friends, said he met Hilton in September in their Holyoke High School choir class. She sang alto, Rogers said, and always seemed happy. “At the end of each day, I would see her and we would like, tackle-hug each other,” he said.

    Rodgers said that friends planned to wear purple, Hilton’s favorite color, to school this week.

    Andrea Irving, 16, a Holyoke High sophomore, said she met Hilton in a jazz dance class four years ago.

    “She was a really good dancer,” Irving said. “She loved life. She was just fun.”

    In Chelmsford, a fire that started shortly after 11 p.m. Saturday in a fourth-floor condominium at the Woodcrest development at 181 Littleton Road tore through the building and left a disabled man and a woman dead and four others injured, including a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, according to fire officials.

    The survivors were relatives of the couple and were visiting, officials and neighbors said.

    The man and woman who died were in their late 60s or 70s, according to Stephen D. Coan, the state fire marshal. Officials did not identify the couple.

    The 7-year-old boy was taken by MedFlight to a Boston hospital for treatment of burns, and the other three survivors were taken to local hospitals, Coan said.

    Chelmsford Fire Chief Michael Curran said the boy suffered burns on his hands and face, but “he’s going to be OK.” He also said that at least 50 people were displaced.

    Lowell firefighters helped fight the blaze at the Littleton Road condominium complex on Saturday in Chelmsford, in which two people died and four others were injured.

    The conditions of the survivors were not clear, but their injuries were not life-threatening.

    Coan said the building had working sprinklers in the garage only.

    Plumes of black smoke poured out of the building, which had more than 20 units, early Sunday morning as firefighters continued to battle the blaze.

    Crews were still dousing the smoldering wreckage Sunday afternoon.

    A resident, Paula Telesco, 56, said she heard a man screaming in the hallway for everyone to get out when the fire started. She later saw him outside, covered in soot.

    Telesco, a music theory professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, said her professional work had been stored on her home computer and it was all destroyed.

    “I had a Steinway grand piano; I’m sure that’s ashes now,” an emotional Telesco said. “It’s like my life is gone. Where do you go now?”

    Shocked neighbors also came to view the damage.

    Mike Adams, 29, said he was driving home around the time the fire started and could see it raging from the road.

    “It was a red horizon on the highway,” he said.

    Woodcrest’s property manager, Paul Harrison, said the building was equipped with working smoke detectors.

    He said the man who died used a wheelchair and at times wore a prosthetic leg.

    On Friday evening in Winchendon, Donald Willett, 70, died in a two-alarm blaze at 95 Beachview Drive, according to authorities.

    “Search crews were forced out of the building due to intense heat conditions and live power lines dancing in the area of the building entrance,” the Winchendon Fire Department said in a statement.

    While the weekend fire deaths marked a grim start to 2013, the number of people killed in fires in Massachusetts last year was near the record low, according to the state Department of Fire Services.

    A spokeswoman for the agency said that according to preliminary data, 37 people died in fires in the state in 2012, and the record low is 36 in 2010.

    Fifty-four people were killed in fires in 2011, and 37 people died in 2009, according to state data.

    In the decade between 2002 and last year, the number of deaths annually ranged from 36 to 62.

    “Our primary message is always smoke alarms, smoke alarms, smoke alarms” and having escape routes in a home, Coan said when asked about safety measures that people can take.

    At the site of the Holyoke fire Sunday, Taylor Beaudreau, 12, said she had attended the vigil for Halee Hilton the day before.

    “She was just one of those really cheery people, always doing things for other people,” said Beaudreau, who went to Maurice A. Donahue Elementary School with Hilton. “A lot of people were crying.”

    Rodgers was also at the Saturday vigil and had left a note on one of the poster boards hanging from the police tape.

    “RIP Halee,” he wrote. “I’ll miss our staring contests. Love, Kevin.”

    Travis Andersen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at Derek J. Anderson can be reached at