For Immediate Release - April 04, 2013

Improper Disposal of Smoking Materials Cause of Northampton Fire

State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan and Northampton Fire Chief Brian P. Duggan said the cause of yesterday’s fire at 24 Orchard Street, Northampton was the improper disposal of smoking materials. Investigators determined that smoking materials ignited trash in bags at the back of the 2-family home. The fire climbed up the outside of the house and entered the building through the attic windows. Damages are estimated at $450,000.

Chief Duggan said, “Smoking materials can smolder undetected for a long time and the strong winds we experienced yesterday not only helped to ignite the fire, but helped it spread very quickly.”

Duggan added, “It is extremely fortunate that no one was injured in this fire. We found no evidence of working smoke alarms and if this fire had happened in the middle of the night instead of the middle of the afternoon, the outcome could have been very different. Smoke alarms are your first line of defense in a fire, giving you early warning and time to use your home escape plan.”

Almost 1/2 of Smoking Fires in the Home Start in the Exterior

State Fire Marshal Coan said, “As more people smoke outside the building in areas like balconies, exterior stairways or enclosed porches, we see more smoking fires starting in these areas.” During 2011, there were 1,197 reported fire incidents caused by the improper use or disposal of smoking materials. These fires caused 54 civilian deaths, 32 civilian injuries, 36 fire service injuries, and an estimated dollar loss of $10 million. Nearly half, 48%, of all residential smoking fires started outside the home, not inside.

The fire was jointly investigated by the Northampton Fire Department, the Northampton Police Department, and State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.