offered by
Press Release

Press Release Cause of Lawrence Fatal Fire Undetermined

Both Smoking and Electric Blanket Possible Causes
For immediate release:
  • Department of Fire Services

Media Contact for Cause of Lawrence Fatal Fire Undetermined

Jennifer Mieth, Public Information Officer

DFS Logo

LAWRENCELawrence Fire Chief Brian F. Moriarty, Lawrence Police Chief Roy P. Vasque, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett said the cause of the January 23, 2020 fatal fire at 5 Saxonia Avenue in Lawrence is officially undetermined but considered accidental. The fire took the life of an elderly man who lived in the 2-family home. District Attorney Blodgett identified the victim as Donald Cornellier, age 76.

Investigators determined that the fire started in the first floor living room where the man was sitting in a chair. There is no evidence that the fire was intentionally-set. It is possible the man fell asleep smoking in his chair or that there was a failure of the electric blanket covering him, so the fire will remain officially classified as undetermined.

Chief Moriarty said, “I offer our heartfelt condolences to the family. I also want to remind everyone that fire spreads incredibly fast. Because you may only have 2-3 minutes to escape a home without sprinklers, it is important to have working smoke alarms on every level of your home.” No working smoke alarms were found inside the first or second floor apartments.

The Lawrence Fire and Police Departments and State Police assigned to both the Office of the State Fire Marshal and to the Office of the Essex District Attorney jointly investigated this fire. Assistance was received from the Department of Fire Services’ Code Compliance and Enforcement Unit.

State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “Older adults accounted for more than one-third (36%) of fire deaths in Massachusetts last year. If you have an older relative or neighbor, offer to make sure their alarms are working, install fresh batteries twice a year, and replace alarms when they are more than ten years old.”


Media Contact for Cause of Lawrence Fatal Fire Undetermined

Department of Fire Services 

The Department of Fire Services helps keep communities safe. We provide firefighter training, public education, fire prevention, code enforcement, licensing, fire investigation, hazardous material response, and emergency response.