- Department of Fire Services
Media Contact for Two Recent Woodstove Fires Prompt Heating Safety Reminder
Jake Wark, Public Information Officer
PEPPERELL and EAST BRIDGEWATER — Pepperell Fire Chief Brian L. Borneman, East Bridgewater Fire Chief Timothy M. Harhen, and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey are reminding residents to use woodstoves, fireplaces, and other heating equipment safely after four people were displaced by two fires this week – including one that injured two residents and claimed seven dogs’ lives.
“As more people turn to fireplaces, woodstoves, and other home heating alternatives, we want to emphasize the importance of using them safely,” said Chief Borneman. “Unless you’re stoking the fire, always keep woodstove doors closed and use a screen in front of a fireplace to prevent sparks or embers from escaping. And always keep anything that can burn at least three feet away on all sides.”
“If you use a fireplace or woodstove, always put the fire out before you go to bed or leave the house,” said Chief Harhen. “When the fire is out, wait until the ashes are cool and place them in a metal bucket with a metal lid outside and away from the building. And if you haven’t had your chimney and flue inspected and cleaned this season, now is a great time to have it done. Many fires start with creosote build-up, and they can spread through cracks in the masonry.”
Residential fires caused by fireplaces, woodstoves, and other solid-fuel heating equipment are increasing, said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. They represented about 43% of all home heating fires last year, up from 35% in 2017.
“We’re deeply concerned that these numbers will continue to climb as home heating prices rise this season,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “No one should have to choose between keeping warm and keeping safe. The Massachusetts home energy assistance program (LIHEAP) is available to help eligible households with winter heating bills and equipment maintenance. Whether you own a home or rent an apartment, it’s free to apply.”
You can apply for heating assistance online or in person through a network of local service providers. No matter what type of heating source you use, LIHEAP may be able to help you pay your winter heating bills and/or maintain your heating equipment. All Massachusetts residents are encouraged to explore eligibility for this free program and apply for assistance.
A Sunday night fire at 47 Mill St. in Pepperell went to two alarms, and two people were transported to the hospital for injuries. Firefighters were able to rescue three dogs and two cats from the fire. This fire was jointly investigated by the Pepperell Fire Department, Pepperell Police Department, and State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office. They determined that the fire began in the front right corner of the home’s living room, where a wood-burning stove was located, and that the most likely cause was embers escaping the stove and igniting combustible materials nearby. Two people were displaced and seven dogs perished in this fire.
On Monday evening, a fire at 634 West Union St. displaced two people. The East Bridgewater Fire Department and State Police fire investigators jointly determined that this fire started in the area of a woodstove in the basement and extended upward, causing serious damage and partial collapse. The fire went to three alarms and two residents were displaced, though fortunately no injuries were reported.
Home heating equipment causes more than 1,200 residential fires each year in Massachusetts, including two fires that claimed three lives in 2021. To address this, the Department of Fire Services launched the Keep Warm, Keep Safe campaign, which provides home heating fire safety tips on flyers that can be downloaded in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Russian, and Vietnamese at the DFS website. Full-color Keep Warm, Keep Safe brochures in English and Spanish can also be downloaded or requested in bulk through the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse.