EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 26, 2013

Fire claims life of city resident

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — GLOUCESTER — A two-alarm fire, Gloucester’s fifth significant house fire in just over a week and second of the weekend, ravaged a Windsor Lane home late Saturday night and left a Gloucester resident dead.

Fire Chief Eric Smith said there was reportedly just one person living in the one-story wood frame home, and the resident was reportedly trapped inside. Fire officials had not released the identity of the victim as of late Sunday. No firefighters, other emergency personnel or neighbors were injured in the blaze.

Firefighters believe smoke detectors may have been inactive or faulty in the home, since the department received no notice of the fire until a neighbor of the 4 Windsor Lane home, seeing flames billowing from a skylight and windows, called firefighters about 11:02 p.m. reporting that the house was burning and the female resident and her pets might be inside, Chief Smith said.

Smith said that, with such damage at the home, it is hard to confirm for sure if smoke detectors were installed and operational, but it seemed unlikely.

“The common thought and wisdom here is had the victim had operable smoke detectors, they would have had enough time to escape,” Smith said. “One would expect that had there been smoke detectors there, once the fire got to the point where people hear it and realize we have a fire, it’s time to leave, that people would leave.”

When firefighters arrived on scene, the home — on a small street off Western Avenue just beyond Stage Fort Park — was about 85 percent engulfed in flames, Smith said. Firefighters also found two dogs that were killed in the fire, according to a report.

“The reality is that, even though (the firefighters’) efforts were outstanding and coordinated well, when we pull up to a fully involved fire like that, the likelihood of anyone surviving that is very slim,” Smith said.

The fire was the fifth significant house fire in the city in the last 10 days, and the second of the weekend. Another fire heavily damaged a two-story house on Maplewood Avenue Saturday afternoon, but there were no reported injuries in that blaze, according to fire officials. Both families were away from the house during that fire and three cats who lived in the home managed to escape, according to fire officials.

Fire Chief Eric Smith said the rash of fires should serve as a reminder to residents to keep functioning smoke detectors in homes.

“It’s been unfortunately busy and the comment of some on these has been that we’re seeing a lack of adequate smoke detectors in homes and we really need to change that and fix that,” Smith said.

The slough of fires began with the 9 Perkins St. Jan. 18 that left eight residents homeless, though all escaped safely. Fire officials confirmed the cause of the Perkins Street fire, which began in a first-floor bedroom, to be accidental.

On the coldest day of the year, last Thursday, fire wreaked havoc on two Gloucester homes.

One blaze damaged an upper Washington Street home at 4:15 a.m., burning through a first-floor window of the unoccupied two-story wood frame house, while residents were out of state.

Later in the morning — at about 11:20 a.m. — fire took hold of a Woodman Street house in West Gloucester, while a resident was attempting to defrost frozen pipes, according to Fire Inspector Joseph Mountain. That fire left significant damage to the kitchen of the home, but again no residents were injured.

Fire officials said there is a “high probability” that Saturday’s Windsor Lane fire was accidental as well, though that could not be verified Sunday night.

Gloucester firefighters and police will continue investigating the cause of the blaze and other factors with the help of the State Fire Marshall’s Office.

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.