EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 3, 2012

Fewer fires, but more arsons in city

(Continued)

Bergeron also noted that the Engine Co. 8, an Ames Street firehouse, remains closed.

“My hope is that we can continue with our emphasis on prevention, enforcement and education, and that the downward trend will continue,” Bergeron said. “It's important to investigate every fire. It's a fact that investigation is a deterrent (to arson).”

Preliminary data for the first six months of this year compiled by the Lawrence Fire Department suggest that the many of the gains made last year may be reversing. There were 172 fires through June 30, just 79 fewer than in all of last year. Twenty eight were set by arsonists, just three fewer than in all of 2011 and more than in all of 2010.

The good news: no one has died in a fire this year and just three people have been injured, including two firefighters.

Of the 251 fires in all of last year, 127 were in structures, including 80 homes and seven schools or other educational facilities. Another 53 fires were in motor vehicles.

Cooking caused 28 percent of the fires in Lawrence last year. Thirteen percent were set by arsonists, and 11 percent by smokers. Heating systems, clothes dryers and candles set most of the rest. Children set four fires, including one that caused $61,000 in damages.

July was the most flammable month in Lawrence last year, with 35 fires. Tuesday and Thursday went up in flames the most, at 38 fires each.

The report also noted that Lawrence firefighters provided mutual aid to other communities 21 times and received mutual aid just 10 times last year. Following the layoffs two years ago, officials in neighboring municipalities protested that the need for mutual aid in Lawrence would soar.

Among all 13 cities surveyed by the state for fire safety last year, Fitchburg was the most dangerous. At 40,000 people, the city is the smallest of the 13 cities, but its rates of fires (9.7 per 1,000 people) and fatalities (1 in 20,000) were the highest.

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