Eighty-year-old Richard Wallace has been identified as the victim of Saturday afternoon’s apartment fire in Haverhill and “smoking materials” is listed as the official cause of the fire.
Haverhill Fire Chief Robert M. O’Brien, state Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Essex County District Attorney Paul F. Tucker jointly delivered the update Monday morning.
“On behalf of the Haverhill Fire Department, I want to express our condolences to Mr. Wallace’s family and loved ones,” said O’Brien. “I also want to remind everyone in our community that the unsafe use of smoking materials is the leading cause of fire deaths. If you smoke or have guests who do, please remember to put it out, all the way, every time.”
The origin and cause of the fire were jointly investigated by the Haverhill Fire Department, Haverhill Police Department and State Police assigned to the offices of the Essex County district attorney and state fire marshal. They determined the fire started in the area of a recliner near the front left of the second floor, where numerous cigarettes and a lighter were seen.
Haverhill firefighters were dispatched Saturday around 4:45 p.m. after receiving multiple emergency 9-1-1 telephone calls. Crews found smoke showing from the second floor of the 38 Ninth Ave. home. Wallace and a dog were found dead in the front bedroom of the apartment. Haverhill Deputy Eric Tarpy earlier told WHAV firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze and contained it to the room
Ostroskey said “Smoking fires have caused about 50 deaths in Massachusetts during the past five years. These fires can smolder undetected in bedding, upholstery and other materials before anyone is aware of them. This is why smoking in bed or when you’re drowsy or impaired is especially dangerous. There’s no truly safe way to smoke, but if you must do it then use a heavy ashtray with water or sand and keep it on a sturdy surface.”
The fire departments of Georgetown, Groveland, Lawrence and Methuen provided mutual aid.