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March 25, 2013

Fatal fire cause is deemed 'accidental'

The state fire marshal has confirmed that the January fire that took a 55-year-old Gloucester woman’s life as it tore through her Windsor Lane home, just off Western Avenue, on a late winter night was an accidental blaze and not a case of arson.

The state Medical Examiner’s Office found that smoke inhalation paired with burns likely took the life of fire victim Kim Anderson in the Jan. 26 fire.

“The investigative team has narrowed down the possible causes to improper disposal of smoking materials, combustibles too close to the baseboard heaters or an electrical malfunction of the baseboard heater behind the couch, but have ruled out arson as a possible cause,” State Fire Marshal Coan said Friday.

State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan and Gloucester Fire Chief Eric L. Smith said investigators found no evidence of smoke detectors having been installed in Anderson’s home. By the time firefighters arrived, the fire, which had originated in the living room of the one-story home, had engulfed 85 percent of the single-family house in flames.

Gloucester suffered from a rash of fires at the end of January, including this fatal fire and another fire on Perkins Street that left eight people without homes. In the wake of the splay of blazes, Gloucester firefighters urged residents to check their existing smoke detectors and add detectors where necessary.

The fire marshal reiterated the importance of keeping functioning detectors in homes Friday.

“Many people incorrectly think that they will wake up to the smell of smoke, when in fact studies have shown you will not, and the toxic smoke from a fire will put you into a deeper sleep,” Coan said.

Smith said that, had there been detectors in Anderson’s home, she likely would have escaped or called firefighters at the start of the fire. Instead, the department received no notice of the fire until a neighbor, 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 two dogs might be inside, Chief Smith said.

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