For Immediate Release - June 30, 2014

June 30, 2014 – 30th Anniversary of Beverly Rooming House Fire

This July 4 will be the 30th anniversary of the Elliott Chambers Rooming House fire in downtown Beverly that killed 15 residents and injured nine others. This tragedy led to swift passage of legislation allowing communities to choose to require sprinklers in boarding and lodging houses. Massachusetts General Law Chapter 148, Section 26H was then quickly adopted by many communities across the Commonwealth, leading to a decline in rooming house fires and especially fatal rooming house fires. It is one of the great fire prevention success stories. Prior to passage and local adoption of this law, rooming houses were known as “death traps” because of the high number of fire deaths.

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Local Option Sprinkler Law for One and Two Family Homes

A single fire killing 15 people drew a lot of attention. But last year we lost 23 people to fires in one- and two-family homes here in Massachusetts. “We need to give local communities the ability to choose to require sprinklers when new homes are built, to save future generations of people from dying where they should feel safest – their own homes,” said State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan. “There is legislation pending right now that would do just that. The Legislature in 1984 moved swiftly and decisively in favor of life safety. I hope the Legislature of 2014 will do so as well,” he added.

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Elliott Chambers Fire

The Elliott Chambers rooming house fire started about 4 a.m. on July 4, 1984 and the residents were asleep. The fire was intentionally-set outside the door that led to the stairs to the rooms located on the second and third floors. This made escape using this exit impossible and people were trapped in their rooms. Nine people were rescued over ladders. Fourteen people died that day including one who jumped, and another person died from burns a month later.