For Immediate Release - February 11, 2017

Fall River Fatal Fire Started by Space Heater and Overloaded Extension Cord

State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said the cause of yesterday’s fatal fire at 356 Globe Street in Fall River was a space heater overloading an extension cord and a power strip. Smoke alarms sounded and two family members were able to escape the fire. One family member tried to fight the fire with an extinguisher and was overcome by the heat and smoke. Despite being rescued and revived by the fire department, the woman later died at hospital.

The fire began in a third floor room where a space heater was plugged into both an extension cord and then into a power strip, neither of which was rated to carry the power of the heat generating appliance.

The fire was jointly investigated by the Fall River Fire Department, Fall River Police Department, and State Police assigned to both the Office of the State Fire Marshal and to the Office of Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III.

“It’s important to plug space heaters directly into wall outlets, and to place them three feet away from anything that can catch fire. Space heaters need space,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is a heavy duty one marked with a power rating at least as high as that on the label of the heater itself,” he added.

Space Heater Fires between 2006 and 2015
Ostroskey said, “While space heater fires are not frequent, they are often deadly. One of every 15 space heater fires causes a fatality.” One hundred and thirty-three (133) space heater fires were reported to the Office of the State Fire Marshal between 2006 and 2015. These fires caused 9 civilian deaths, 22 civilian injuries, 31 fire service injuries, and an estimated dollar loss of $10.6 million. The average dollar loss for a space heater fire is $79,851. Twenty-seven percent (27%) of these fires were caused when combustible materials such as bedding, magazines, newspapers, clothing or furniture were too close to the heater, and another 8% were caused when rugs, carpets or mats were under or too close to the heater.

“The Keep Warm, Keep Safe winter heating safety campaign has easy to follow tips on how to keep warm and keep safe this winter whether it’s with space heaters, woodstoves and fireplaces, or furnaces,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey, “Go to www.mass.gov/keepwarmkeepsafe for more information.”