GRAFTON, Mass. -- It was a tough year for Grafton firefighters.
In 2012, there were a series of fires in North Grafton, one near the Common, two men were arrested for arson, a two car crash ignited an inferno, a family escaped a house fire on Blanchard Road, and one of "Grafton's own" was honored with a Firefighter of the Year award.
In January, there were two fires in the Airport Road neighborhood. The first was on Jan. 2, the second three days later.
The following week, a fire destroyed the home of Robert and Kathy Benoit of Countryside Road, killing their family pets, and worrying neighbors. "The stress level gets up because now we've had three structure fires in 11 days, which is out of the norm for us," said Grafton Fire Chief Mickey Gauthier while on the scene.
Later that day, Joseph Edward Mullen, 29, of 37 Stowe Road was arrested by Grafton Police and charged with arson in the Countryside Road blaze.
The first two fires, however, remained under investigation.
In February, Charles Conti, 63, of 7 Airport Road, was arrested on arson charges after he was accused of setting fire to construction equipment in Worcester. Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Travers noted at the arraignment that Conti's neighbors have called police numerous times to report fires set in his backyard, with fireballs several feet high.
In March, an Oak Street homeowner was forced to leap from the second floor after a fast-moving fire raced through her home early Wednesday morning.
Sandra Brawn was apparently woken up by the fire at 13 Oak St. By the time Grafton Police arrived at her home minutes later, she was jumping from her second-floor window to the roof of the rear deck to escape the blaze.
In October, Joseph E. Mullen, arrested last January after confessing to burning down the Grafton home of Robert and Kathy Benoit, pleaded guilty in Worcester Superior Court.
Hours after the sentencing, a two-car accident on Worcester Street ignited a fireball in front of MacKoul's Cars, destroying the two cars but no other property damage.
Five weeks later, a Blanchard Road home was destroyed after a fire that started in the garage. The occupants escaped unharmed.
In mid-December, Ken Dion, a Grafton resident and Worcester firefighter, was awarded Firefighter of the Year honor for his act of bravery in a Worcester fire that killed fellow firefighter, Jon D. Davies, Sr. in December 2011.
The Grafton Daily Voice is tallying the top 10 stories of 2012 this week.