Massachusetts fire officials are warning the public after investigators find space heater blaze caused fatality



Massachusetts fire officials are warning the public after a space heater fire has claimed the life of a resident.

On Thursday, Fire Chief Don Contois, State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey, and Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said that last week’s fatal fire in Brimfield started accidentally due to the space heater, prompting a reminder to use these appliances safely.

“Space heaters need space,” said Chief Contois. “If you’re using one at home, keep anything that can burn at least three feet away on all sides and be sure to turn them off when you leave the room or go to sleep.”

The Dec. 22 fire on 3rd Street claimed the life of an older adult. Its origin and cause were jointly investigated by the Brimfield Fire Department, the State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office, and State Police assigned to the Hampden DA’s office. They were assisted by the Department of Fire Services’ Code Compliance & Enforcement Unit.

Investigators found numerous space heaters in the single-family lakeside home. The investigation determined that the fire began in the living room with a portable propane-fueled space heater.

“Portable space heaters caused more than a dozen fires in Massachusetts last winter, including one in Holliston that claimed a resident’s life,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “Remember that kerosene space heaters and portable propane space heaters are not permitted for residential use in Massachusetts. Electric space heaters should be plugged directly into a wall outlet, and they should have an automatic shut-off switch that disables the device if it tips over.”

Investigators found no working smoke or carbon monoxide alarms at the scene. Both Chief Contois and State Fire Marshal Ostroskey emphasized the importance of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in every residence.

“Heating equipment is the second-leading cause of residential fires and the main source of carbon monoxide at home,” they said. “Smoke and CO alarms are your family’s first line of defense, so be sure you have them on every level of your home and test them once a month to be sure they’re working properly.”

Modern smoke and CO alarms have a manufacturing date printed on the back. Smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years, and carbon monoxide alarms should be replaced after five to seven years depending on the model. Alarms without a manufacturing date should be replaced right away. If your alarms take alkaline batteries and are still in their useful lifespan, change the batteries twice a year. If purchasing a new alarm, choose one with a sealed, long-life battery and a hush feature.

Finally, residents struggling to pay for heating bills or maintenance may be eligible for assistance through the Massachusetts home energy assistance program (LIHEAP). No matter what type of heating source you have, LIHEAP may be able to help you pay your winter heating bills or maintain your heating system so it runs more safely and efficiently. All Massachusetts residents are encouraged to explore eligibility for this free program and apply for assistance.

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