METHUEN — Fire officials say the house where an elderly couple died in an early morning fire likely had no working smoke detectors.
The fire broke out shortly before 3 a.m. at 22 Buttonwood Drive. When firefighters arrived, the home was engulfed in flames, and by the time firefighters were able to get inside, the the couple was already dead, officials said.
The body of a man was found just inside the front door and that of a woman was found in a rear bathroom, officials said. One victim was 82, and the other 79.
Fire Chief Steven Buote said the couple was apparently awakened by the fire, but by then the house was filled with so much smoke they had trouble seeing, became disoriented and were separated.
"My guess is there were not any smoke detectors," Buote said. "There were certainly not enough of them in working condition."
Police Officer Neil Quinlan was on patrol in the Jackson Street area about 3 a.m. when he saw a glow in the sky that led him to the fire on Buttonwood Drive.
His report said the garage and foyer connecting it to the house were in flames when he arrived. His report said a dispatcher told him two elderly people lived there and he attempted to approach the home to alert them.
However, as he got closer he could see heavy, black smoke billowing from all points of the house and could hear small explosions in the garage, "making it unsafe to proceed any further."
The police report said Quinlan and another officer began evacuating nearby homes because burning embers filled the sky and trees were catching fire.
Two bodies were soon found inside the home. A dog was also found dead inside.
Buote said the man and woman were the 10th and 11th fire victims in Massachusetts since Jan. 1. Their names were not being released this morning.
The fire is believed to have started in the garage, where one car was parked, with a second outside.
The cause is under investigation by Methuen fire and police officials and state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan, who was at the scene this morning.
Buote said the house is at the top of a small hill, and the driveway is sloped. As water was poured onto the burning home, the runoff froze, causing some slips and falls, but no serious injuries, the chief said.
Red Cross volunteers were assisting at the scene.
Buttonwood Drive runs between Jackson and Prospect streets near Holy Family Hospital and Methuen High School.
More as information becomes available at eagletribune.com.