- Department of Fire Services
Media Contact for Smoking Cause of Spencer Rooming House Fire
Jennifer Mieth, Public Information Officer
SPENCER — Spencer Fire Chief Robert Parsons and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said the cause of the August 10, 2020 fire at 204 Main Street in Spencer is the improper use or disposal of smoking materials. The 26-unit rooming house suffered an estimated $80,000 in damage. Nineteen residents are displaced.
No residents were injured but one firefighter was treated and released from a local hospital.
The fire started on the windowsill of the old balloon-frame building. Embers from smoking materials got inside the framing of the windowsill and travelled inside the wall up to the attic. The fire smoldered for a long time before breaking out.
Balloon frame construction is a technique that was used in many New England buildings in the last two centuries where there are little or no fire stops inside the walls. This allows fire to travel quickly, often before occupants are aware of the danger.
The Spencer Fire and Police Departments, the District 7 Fire Investigation Team, and State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal jointly investigated the fire.
The building was equipped with a residential sprinkler system that is designed for life safety - to allow occupants more time to escape. The sprinkler system protected occupied areas only, but not the attic or concealed spaces. Because the fire was inside the walls and the attic, the sprinklers never activated. Everyone was able to escape safely.