For Immediate Release - May 15, 2014

Smoking Caused Haverhill Condominium Fire

State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan and Haverhill Public Safety Commissioner Alan DeNaro said the cause of the large condominium building fire on May 7, 2014 at 21-23 Forest Acres Drive was the improper disposal of smoking materials. The building fire also ignited a 10-acre brush fire in the woodlands behind the building.

The fire started on the exterior of 21 Forest Acres Drive and travelled up the outside. Two 10-unit buildings were destroyed by the fire displacing the residents of 20 housing units. The building was not required to have sprinklers inside or on the balconies when it was built, but would if it were built today.

A young mother jumped from the third floor clutching her 18-month old son. She was severely injured, but miraculously, her son was not. There were two firefighter injuries in this fire that caused an estimated $670,000 on property damage.

The fire was jointly investigated by the Haverhill Fire and Police Departments and State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Coan said, “Property managers should consider providing and maintaining proper receptacles for disposing of smoking materials outside buildings, to prevent fires from flicked cigarettes.” There are commercially available products, but a metal can with sand or water that is maintained also work well.

Commissioner DeNaro said, “We are asking smokers to take responsibility for properly disposing of their butts and prevent fires. Improperly disposing of a cigarette into a pile of mulch, dried leaves, or debris is reckless and people know it.”
 

Smoking Fires Caused $19.3 M Damage in 2012

During 2012, 1,977, or 6%, of the 31,229 reported fire incidents were caused by the improper use or disposal of smoking materials. These 1,977 fires caused four civilian deaths, 39 civilian injuries, 48 fire service injuries, and an estimated dollar loss of $19.3 million. Smoking is the leading cause of residential fire deaths in Massachusetts.

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

Over half (58%) of all residential smoking fires (2012) started outside the home, not inside. Historically the bedroom and living room are where most smoking fires have started. As more people smoke outside, more smoking fires are starting in areas like balconies, exterior stairways, porches, patios, courtyards and other outside areas.

 

2012 Residential Smoking Fires Area of Origin

 

National Smoking Campaign: Put It Out, All the Way, Every Time

The U.S. Fire Administration has a campaign on preventing smoking fires that encourages smokers to Put It Out. All the Way. Every Time. Log onto http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/campaigns/smoking/ for more information.