EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 4, 2013

Smoking cause of fatal fire earlier this year

By Mike LaBella
mlabella@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — Authorities say there were no working smoke alarms in the room where a woman perished in a fire earlier this year at 41 Bricket Hill Circle, a sprawling upscale condominium/townhouse community off of North Avenue.

State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan and Haverhill Public Safety Director Alan DeNaro said the cause of the Jan. 28 fire was the improper use of smoking materials. They said the fire took the life of 45-year old Elizabeth Morgan, who lived in the one-family home.

“One of the greatest tragedies of this fire is that there were no working smoke alarms on the upper levels of the home,” Coan said in a press release issued this week by his office. “The one working smoke alarm in the basement alerted the victim’s son and helped him escape. Smoke alarms provide the earliest warning of danger giving people time to get out safely.”

Jennifer Mieth, public information officer for the Department of Fire Services, said the smoke alarms in the building were all hard-wired and interconnected.

“The basement alarms were operable, the first floor one was disconnected, and the second floor one did not work – specifically why could not be determined given what little was left of it,” she said.

On Jan. 28, just before 11:30 a.m., an 83-year-old woman who lived in an adjoining townhouse was getting ready to head to her office job when her front doorbell rang. She said the teenage boy who lives next door at 41 Brickett Hill Circle said his home was filled with smoke and to call 911. She said the boy, who had no shoes on his feet and walked across the snow for help, told her he was sleeping in the basement and that his mother had taken his sister to school earlier in the morning and he didn’t know if his mother was home or not.

The woman said she called 911 then went next door with the boy to see what was going on. Police said they received her 911 call at 11:28 a.m.

The woman said the front door of the home was open and the boy, who told her he’d left it open, walked in and tried to walk up to the second floor, believing his mother might be upstairs. She said there was too much smoke and the boy had to turn back. Fire trucks soon arrived on the scene.

Neighbors said they knew very little about the family that lived in the home, which they said was a rental unit that had various residents over the years.

The fire was jointly investigated by members of the Haverhill Fire and Police Departments, State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal and to the office of Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

According to Coan’s office, there have been 24 fire deaths in Massachusetts since the first of the year and two that are waiting to be confirmed.