Stove Fire Caused Beverly Fatal Fire
State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey, Beverly Fire Chief Paul R. Cotter, and Beverly Police Chief John G. LeLacheur said the cause of the February 25, 2017 fatal fire at 274 Hale Street in Beverly was the stove burner left on for an extended period of time igniting nearby combustibles.
The fire took the life of an elderly woman, believed to be the sole occupant of the home. The Office of Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett will release the identity once formal identification has been concluded by the Medical Examiner’s Office and notification of next of kin.
The fire began in the kitchen, the room with the only exit from the home that was not blocked by possessions. The victim was found in a front living room and would have had to pass through the fire to get out of the home.
The home had no smoke or carbon monoxide alarms. It is impossible to determine if the two antique heat detectors functioned, but without clear pathways to more than one exit, it is unlikely she could have escaped even with early warning. “This tragedy underscores why it is so important to have two ways out of every room and a clear pathway to the exits,” said Fire Chief Cotter.
The house was filled with excessive clutter that not only trapped the victim inside, but also made it difficult for firefighters to gain entry to the home to attempt a rescue and to fight the fire. In 2016, three people died in fires where excessive clutter was an issue for the residents trying to escape, or firefighters trying to rescue them. State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “No one thinks a fire will happen to them, but when one does, these conditions put both residents and responding firefighters in harm’s way.”
The fire was jointly investigated by the Beverly Fire Department, Beverly Police Department and State Police assigned to both the Office of the State Fire Marshal and to the Office of the Essex District Attorney.
State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “We understand excessive accumulation of possessions is a mental health issue as well as a fire safety issue. We care about the safety of all of our residents and would ask anyone who feels their possessions are impairing their ability to use rooms in their home as they were intended, to reach out for help. There is no shame in asking for help.”
Chief Cotter said, “This was a sad end to a vibrant member of our community. Here on the North Shore we are lucky to have some compassionate experts at the North Shore Center for Hoarding and Cluttering that can offer safe and non-judgmental support for individuals and families struggling with clutter.”
For a list of statewide resources on hoarding and cluttering go to: www.masshousing.com/hoarding or call 800-243-4636 (800 AGE INFO).