- Department of Fire Services
Media Contact for Fatal Fire in Athol Home Started with Stove
Jake Wark, Public Information Officer
ATHOL — The Sept. 7 fire that claimed a woman’s life in Athol this week started with a stove and does not appear suspicious, said Athol Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera, Athol Police Chief Craig Lundgren, State Fire Marshal Jon Davine, and Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan.
Fire damage to the residence at 92 Fern Street was so extensive that the second floor collapsed, requiring the use of heavy machinery to delayer the scene. Investigators determined that the area of origin was in the kitchen, and specifically the gas stove. They further found that one of the knobs was slightly on. Based on the investigation so far, the fire appears to have been accidental.
Tragically, the fire claimed one person’s life. She was identified as 62-year-old Jacqueline M. Doherty, who was described by Town Manager Shaun Suhoski as a beloved member of the community and active in her church and neighborhood. A second occupant was transported from the scene to an area hospital and is recovering.
“I again want to express our sympathies to Ms. Doherty’s family and loved ones,” said Chief Guarnera. “About 80% of residential fires in Massachusetts start with cooking equipment. Many of these fires can be prevented by using extra caution in the kitchen, but don’t put yourself at risk if a fire does break out – get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1.”
The Athol Fire Department responded to the area following a report of a fire at about 9:45 on Thursday morning. On arrival, firefighters observed the two-story home to be fully involved, with heavy smoke and flames showing. The fire quickly went to a second alarm and then a third, bringing mutual aid from numerous nearby departments. About 40 firefighters battled the blaze for more than an hour.
The fire is being investigated by the Athol Fire Department, Athol Police, State Police assigned to the offices of the State Fire Marshal and Northwestern District Attorney, and District 8 fire investigators. They are supported by the Department of Fire Service’ Code Compliance & Enforcement Unit. The fire departments of Barre, Oakham, Orange, Fitchburg, Gardner, Phillipston, Petersham, Royalston, Westminster, and Winchendon provided mutual aid at the scene. The fire departments of Templeton and Fitchburg provided station coverage.