- Department of Fire Services
Media Contact for Athol Fire Undetermined after Investigation
Jennifer Mieth, Public Information Officer
ATHOL — Athol Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said the cause of the January 11, 2019 fire at 275 Cottage Street in Athol is undetermined after investigation, but the focus is on either the woodstove or improper disposal of smoking materials. One dog perished in the fire.
Investigators determined that the fire started on the second floor of the office building that had a makeshift living area. The two possible causes of fire in that area were a wood stove and the improper disposal of smoking materials. There was no evidence that the fire was intentionally set. The building collapse made it structurally unsafe for an extensive fire scene examination.
Origin and Cause Determination
Fire investigators first determine the point of origin of a fire and then its cause. Once they are able to determine where the fire started, they rely on witness statements to identify the possible sources of ignition. Investigators then compare the witness statements to the evidence found in the forensic scene examination to determine the cause of the fire. They systematically eliminate each possible cause, until there is only one most probable cause left. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 921 for fire investigation requires investigators to leave a fire “undetermined” if they are not able to eliminate all but one possible cause.