EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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February 26, 2014

LATEST: Methuen fire victims identified

METHUEN -- Officials have identified the victims of this morning's fire at 22 Buttonwood Drive as James and Thelma McDermott, who owned the house.

James McDermott, 82, was a longtime Methuen School Department employee. His wife was 79.

They were the 10th and 11th fatal fire victims in Massachusetts since Jan. 1, fire officials said.

Fire Chief Steven Buote said the fire broke out sometime before 3 a.m. A police officer on patrol in the Jackson Street area saw a glow in the sky and alerted the Fire Department.

The house was in flames when firefighters arrived. The body of James McDermott was found inside the front door and his wife's body in a bathroom at the rear of the house.

Buote said the house apparently had no working smoke detectors.

When the couple awoke, they likely became disoriented in the heavy smoke and were separated, he said.

The victims were dead by the time firefighters were able to get inside the home through a hole they cut in the rear of the property. A dog was also killed.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but it is believed to have started in an attached garage.

More coming at eagletribune.com as it's available and in tomorrow's Eagle-Tribune.

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