- Department of Fire Services
Media Contact for Smoking Cause of Pittsfield Fatal Fire
Jennifer Mieth, Public Information Officer
PITTSFIELD — Pittsfield Fire Chief Thomas Sammons, Pittsfield Police Chief Michael J. Wynn, Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington, and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said the cause of the July 6, 2020 fatal fire at 73 Chickering Street in Pittsfield, was the improper disposal of smoking materials. The victim was identified by the Office of District Attorney Harrington as 74-year-old Frances Lysonski. Firefighters were able to rescue her but she later succumbed to her injuries at a local hospital.
Damages to the one-family home are estimated at $40,000. One firefighter was injured battling the blaze.
The fire originated in a plastic trash barrel in the first floor living room. Several packs of Pall Mall cigarettes and matches were found in the area of origin. Other possible causes were ruled out.
Members of the Pittsfield Fire and Police Departments and State Police assigned to both the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Office of the Berkshire District Attorney jointly investigated the fire. Assistance was received from the Department of Fire Services Code Compliance Unit.
No Working Smoke Alarms
There were no working smoke alarms in the home. One found in the basement was at least 25 years old and had a dead battery in it. One alarm found buried under boxes on the second floor was also at least 25 years old and had no battery. Chief Sammons said, “Working smoke alarms give you early warning of danger and in a fire you need every second. You have only 1-3 minutes to escape the typical house fire.” He added, “Just like other household appliances, smoke alarms wear out and need to be replaced after ten years. Expired alarms cannot be relied on to work you when you need them most.”
“Pittsfield Fire Department has a smoke alarm program for older adults as part of its Senior SAFE program,” said Sammons, “Contact Lt. Randy Stein in Fire Prevention at RStein@cityofpittsfield.org or call (978) 448-9764 for more information.”
Replace Smoke Alarms more than 10 Years Old
State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “This is the third fatal fire this year where the smoke alarms were too old to work. If you have smoke alarms that are more than ten years old, it is time to replace them. Please also check the age of alarms in the homes of elderly relatives. We don’t want anyone to risk falling in order to check their smoke alarms.” Smoke alarms have a date of manufacturer on the side or back. Any alarms that do not have a date printed on them are already more than 10 years old.
Smoking Fire Safety: Put it Out. All the Way. Every Time.
State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “The improper disposal of smoking materials is a leading cause of fires and fire deaths. Forty percent of Massachusetts fire deaths this year have been due to smoking.” The Department of Fire Services currently has a Smoking Fire Safety campaign that urges smokers to be responsible. Put it out. All the way. Every time. It includes television and radio public service announcements in English and in Spanish. For more information on smoking fire safety, go to: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/smoking-fire-safety .
The excessive clutter inside the home contributed to the fire’s spread and hindered firefighting efforts.
Chief Sammons said, “There is safe and non-judgmental support for individuals and families struggling with clutter; please contact the senior center, local board of health, or a mental health professional if you need or know someone who needs help.” In Berkshire County, contact the Brien Center, Servicenet, or Clinical Support Options for help.
Ostroskey said, “We understand excessive accumulation of possessions is a mental health issue as well as a fire safety issue. We care about the safety of all of our residents and would ask anyone who feels their possessions are impairing their ability to use rooms in their home as they were intended, to reach out for help. There is no shame in asking for help.” For a list of statewide resources on hoarding and cluttering, go to www.masshousing.com/hoarding or call 800-243-4636 (800 AGE INFO).