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Two Everett landlords arraigned in blaze that injured firefighters

Everett firefighters opened a vent in the roof during the July fire on Morris Street. Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff/File

MALDEN — Everett Fire Lieutenant Scott Dalrymple said he felt nervous and “almost a little queasy” in court Tuesday morning when he saw the two Everett landlords who allegedly violated building codes at a property that caught on fire in July and left him with serious injuries.

“I feel bad,” said Dalrymple, 48. “But what they did, there’s no excuse.”

Dalrymple suffered severe burns to his head, hands, and abdomen while battling the three-alarm blaze that tore through the multifamily residence at 15 Morris St. last year.

The landlords, Muddasir Bari, 63, and Nargis Bhatti, 55, both of Everett, were arraigned in Malden District Court on Tuesday on charges of wanton and reckless disregard of fire or building codes that resulted in serious bodily injuries under the Comprehensive Fire Safety Act.

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Not-guilty pleas were entered on their behalf, and Bari and Bhatti were released on personal recognizance. They are due back in court March 5.

Dalrymple said the problem of landlords ignoring fire codes is widespread and not limited to Everett.

“It happens every day,” he said. “They’re risking people’s lives every day just to make money.”

That’s why it’s important that property owners are held responsible, he said.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan’s office, in a statement released before the arraignment, described the raging fire that broke out on the afternoon of July 13.

“On July 13, shortly after 2:00 p.m., Everett firefighters responded to a multifamily dwelling located on Morris Street in Everett that was engulfed in flames,” the statement said. “Upon arrival, firefighters were met with heavy fire on the second floor of the two-and-a-half-story, three-family, wood-frame building. Investigators subsequently determined that the fire started at the electrical panel as a result of the circuit being overloaded.”

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At the arraignment, Assistant District Attorney Lee Hettinger described the dangerous conditions at the residential building on Morris Street.

“The investigation of this matter shows that in 2017 alone, there were 59 violations for lodging, fire and wiring related issues” and “numerous other code violations” at the property that resulted in approximately $49,000 in fines, he said.

Inspectors found smoke detector violations, overcrowding violations, and electrical wiring violations, according to the police report filed in court.

“Based on the investigation, the home was substantially overcrowded and the electrical boxes were over utilized,” Hettinger said. “Many of the rooms were blocked off for individual habitation and had their own individual microwave ovens, and extension cords and things like that for hot plates.”

Hettinger said Bari and Bhatti do not live at the property, which is zoned as a three-family residence.

“There were 19 people living there — more than three families,” he said.

According to the police report, in 2017 inspectors found “numerous” extension cords running through the house on Morris Street “in a manner that could cause an overload situation.” But when inspectors returned to the property in July 2018 — approximately a week before the fire — all of the wiring and code violations had been cleared.

After the fire, investigators compared photos that were taken in 2017 with photos taken after the fire and noticed that “orange extension cord wiring had been reinstalled in the basement” and that “there appeared to be an orange extension [cord] wired into one of the electrical breaker boxes,” the report said. “It was the opinion of the ISD inspectors that the wiring had been reinstalled after their last inspection of July of 2018.”

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In the statement that was released by the district attorney’s office, public safety officials decried the alleged violation of building codes.

“Firefighters put themselves at risk whenever they respond to a fire and that is why there are laws in place to minimize risk to first responders and to the public,” Ryan said. “In this case, through their alleged violation of the building codes, the defendants are alleged to have created a dangerous situation that ultimately led to two firefighters sustaining serious injuries.”

Her words were echoed by State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey.

“District Attorney Ryan’s prosecution of individuals who flouted the fire and building codes is important to protecting the public as well as first responders,” Ostroskey said. “Holding them accountable shows support for local firefighters and building officials who enforce the codes.”

After the arraignment, Everett Fire Chief Anthony Carli spoke of the blaze in stark terms and described the conditions of the property as “very bad.”

“It’s very important that we hold these landlords accountable for their actions,” Carli said. “We were chasing them and using everything we had to get them to correct these problems. We knew that there were problems.”

Carli also spoke of the lasting impact the fire has left upon Dalrymple.

“We hope the lieutenant will be back with us soon, but he definitely has some injuries that he’ll be carrying with him for the rest of his life,” Carli said.

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Three people — Dalrymple, another firefighter, and a civilian — were hurt during the blaze. Everett firefighter Joshua Doyon suffered minor burns to his neck and ears and was treated and released from the hospital, according to court documents.

Dalrymple suffered severe burns to his head, hands, and abdomen. He spent four weeks in the hospital and had to undergo more than a half-dozen surgeries. He does occupational therapy three times a week.

“I’m doing OK,” said Dalrymple, in an interview at the courthouse after the arraignment. “I just had my seventh surgery the day after Christmas. They did another skin graft, and they amputated part of my thumb.”

Dalrymple hopes to be back at work in less than a month. But he won’t be returning to the front lines of fighting fires; he’ll be working a desk job.


Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.