Cigarette in Mulch Burned Woodrow Avenue Home

(Genesio Oliviera photographs.)

The fire that destroyed a Woodrow Avenue home a week ago was caused by careless disposal of a lit cigarette in mulch behind the home, according to the office of state Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan.

The Haverhill Fire Department and state police assigned to the office of the state fire marshal jointly investigated the fire at 11 Woodrow Ave., said Jennifer Mieth, spokeswoman for Coan’s office.

“Improper disposal of cigarettes in the mulch off the back porch was the cause,” Mieth said, adding fires beginning in mulch have recently become a serious problem.

“We have had a number of fires in the past couple of weeks,” she said. A 36-unit Arlington condominium was destroyed the same day, she explained. Similarly, an Abington home also burned after a cigarette was disposed of in mulch. “Mulch is a combustible material. It’s like throwing a match into a pile of papers.”

When used, mulch should be placed at least 18 inches away from homes. In fact, she said, it’s the law for multi-family housing of more than six units. “It’s a good practice for everyone to consider. Mieth provided a fact sheet which may be downloaded here. More fire safety tips may be found here.

A dog was believed to have perished in the Woodrow Avenue blaze. Neighbors report they heard a dog barking from inside the house when firefighters arrived. Haverhill Deputy Fire Chief Eric Tarpy said he could not confirm the report.

“It was being said that the dog was in the house. We never saw the dog so I don’t know,” he said.

City records show the home, which was demolished yesterday, is owned by Rachel Combs and was built in 1912.

Fire officials believed the fire at 11 Woodrow Ave. began at the rear of the house.

Fire officials believed the fire at 11 Woodrow Ave. began at the rear of the house.

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