GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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January 29, 2013

Rash of fires spotlight home hazards

City fires spotlight home, human hazards

Fire officials are urging residents to take fire safety precautions after five fires blazed at Gloucester homes in a 10-day span, the most recent taking the life of a city woman and the first displacing eight people from their homes.

Firefighters believe smoke detectors may have been inactive or faulty in the 4 Windsor Lane home that burned late Saturday night, trapping a woman who was later found dead inside. Fire Chief Eric Smith said there was reportedly just one person living in the one-story wood frame home, but fire officials had still not released the identity of the victim as of late Monday. A medical examiner’s report, including identification, is expected on Wednesday

Smith said that, had there been detectors, the woman inside 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. The single-story wood frame house was 85 percent engulfed in flames by the time firefighters were notified and arrived, according to Smith.

”Unfortunately, we tend to repeat mistakes like this and a lot of people don’t consider it or think it through until it happens to a friend or neighbor or themselves,” Smith said.

With blazes striking houses on upper Washington Street, Perkins Street, Woodman Street, Maplewood Avenue and Windsor Lane just off Western Avenue, people in neighborhoods all over Gloucester have been touched by fire. Also, the fatal Windsor Lane fire was one of eight deadly fires in Massachusetts already this year, compared to 37 in all of 2012.

Smith said the Gloucester Fire Department is not only encouraging residents to install and check smoke alarms in their homes, but is also doing what they can to help people get smoke alarms up and working. The department is working with insurance companies to acquire donated smoke detectors for Gloucester residents who might be “having trouble making ends meet,” Smith said.

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