- Department of Fire Services
Media Contact for Haverhill Man Rescued from Smoking Fire
Jennifer Mieth, Public Information Officer
HAVERHILL — Haverhill Fire Chief Laliberty, Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro and State Fire Marshal Peter J .Ostroskey said the cause of the January 10, 2021 fire at 170 Main Street in Haverhill was the improper use or disposal of smoking materials.
The heat detectors, smoke alarms and fire sprinkler system in the 22-unit building all activated. Once alerted, neighbors entered the studio apartment and found the victim on fire on his bed. Using fire extinguishers, they were able to put out the flames enough to move him into the hallway. Haverhill firefighters provided emergency medical service and he was taken to the local hospital suffering from burn injuries.
Two sprinkler heads activated and contained the fire to the studio apartment until the fire department arrived. Chief Laliberty said, “Fortunately, these fire protection systems worked as intended and protected all the other residents of the building.” The heat detectors and the sprinkler system are tied to a municipal fire alarm system that automatically notified the fire department.
The fire was jointly investigated by members of the Haverhill Fire and Police Departments and State Police assigned to both the Office of the State Fire Marshal and to the Office of Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett. Assistance was received from the state Department of Fire Services Code Compliance Unit.
Home Oxygen Makes it Easier for Fires to Start and Spread
Investigators determined that the cause of the fire was smoking in bed. The victim also used medical oxygen at home that created an oxygen-enriched environment. When oxygen is used in the home, the amount of oxygen in the air, furniture, clothing, and hair goes up, making it easier for a fire to start and spread, whether or not the oxygen machine is running.
Breathe Easy: Home Oxygen Fire Safety Campaign
The Department of Fire Services has a public awareness campaign on home oxygen fire safety. The Breathe Easy: Home Oxygen Fire Safety Campaign helps patients, families, physicians and care givers understand the new fire risks they also bring into the home with medical oxygen. The campaign has pamphlets in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, poster, a safety presentation, and other educational materials for firefighters, senior centers and other community partners.
Chief Laliberty said, “Keep oxygen and tubing 10 feet away from heat sources such as candles, matches, lighters, heaters, wood stoves, electric razors, hair dryers, cooking stoves, and smoking materials.” He added, “There is no safe way to smoke around home oxygen. Turning off the oxygen is not enough because your clothes, hair, bedding and the tubing soak up the oxygen and become oxygen-enriched.”
State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “We want smokers to live long enough to quit. Ask your doctor for help and call the state Department of Public Health Quitline for free help over the telephone or online.” Visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health or call the Smoker's Helpline at (800) 879-8678; Spanish (800) 833-5256; TDD (800) 833-1477.