For Immediate Release - March 07, 2017

Milton Fatal Fire Electrical
Space Heaters Overloaded Extension Cords

State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Milton Fire Chief John Grant said yesterday’s fatal fire at One Elias Lane in Milton started when a space heater overloaded an extension cord and caused an electrical fire.

The fire took the lives of two elderly men who were sleeping in second floor bedrooms. Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey’s office identified the men as Kenneth Guscott, 91, and Leroy Whitmore, 87. Smoke alarms were present and two other residents were able to escape the fire.

The fire began in a second floor bedroom where two oil filled space heaters were plugged in. One was plugged into a power strip and the other into a long extension cord. The extension cord and the power strip were not designed to carry the electrical load of a heat-generating appliance such as a space heater. The electrical fire started where the extension cord and the space heater were connected.

“While space heater fires are not common, one of every 15 space heater fires causes a fatality,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. Ostroskey added, “Older adults often have a harder time staying warm in the winter. As we help our seniors keep warm and keep safe, it is important to plug space heaters directly in the wall outlet and keep them three feet from anything that can catch fire.” Metabolic changes, and common diseases and medications for older adults make them more susceptible to feeling the cold.

Chief Grant said, “This fire was a tragic loss not only for the family but for the greater Boston community. The fact that the home had working smoke alarms prevented this tragedy from being any worse.” He added, “In today’s typical home without fire sprinklers, people on average have 1-3 minutes to escape toxic heat and smoke. People with mobility issues, even temporary ones, should consider sleeping on the ground floor.”

The fire was jointly investigated by the Milton Fire and Police Departments and State Police assigned to both the Office of the State Fire Marshal and to the Office of Norfolk District Attorney. Assistance was received from the Code Compliance Unit of the Department of Fire Services.

District Attorney Morrissey confirmed that at this time the deaths do not appear suspicious.

Seniors Account for 40% of MA Fire Deaths

People over age 65 account for 40% of the fire deaths each year in Massachusetts and are more than two times as likely to die in a fire than any other age group. The Department of Fire Services has tips for seniors on fire safety and for adults on how to Keep Our Aging Parents Safe from fire in their own homes and information on space heater safety.

Space Heater Fires

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 nine 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.