Fire Chief and Fire Marshal’s Report: Hoarding and Clutter Contributes to Merrimac Fire

Members of the Merrimac and Amesbury Fire Departments battle a house fire at 2 Mechanic St., Merrimac. (Photograph courtesy of Michael J. Kent.)

The Merrimac fire chief and state fire marshal’s office yesterday blamed a pellet stove for fire damage to a home earlier this month.

Merrimac Fire Chief Larry S. Fisher and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said the April 7 fire at 2 Mechanic St. started on the exterior of the single-family home where the pellet stove vented to the outside. The pipe was clogged with ash and soot and the heat ignited combustibles leaning against the building. The pellet stove was the main source of heat in the home. One of the residents was able to unplug the pellet stove before escaping.

Fisher said, neighbors rescued four residents who were home at the time of the fire. The blaze blocked the back door and excessive clutter blocked the front door. He noted, “The residents were very lucky that their neighbors not only alerted them to the fire but went through such heroic efforts to rescue them before the fire department arrived.” Neighbors could not open the front door, broke a window to climb in, removed enough clutter to open the front door and guide them to safety. He added, “If this fire had happened in the middle of the night, it might have had a different outcome. It is important to have two clear pathways of out of every room in your home.”

The excessive clutter hindered firefighting efforts. Firefighters had great difficulty accessing the home through the front door to get to the seat of the fire. Fisher said, “There is safe and non-judgmental support for individuals and families struggling with clutter.” He urged anyone with knowledge of such a situation to contact the senior center, board of health or North Shore Center for Hoarding and Cluttering for help.

There’s a list of statewide resources on hoarding and cluttering at or by calling 800-243-4636 (800 AGE INFO).

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