New Bedford Fatal Fire Caused By Improper Disposal of Smoking Materials
NEW BEDFORD — Authorities have determined that the improper disposal of smoking materials caused Monday’s fatal fire on Acushnet Avenue that claimed the lives of two men, and that a lack of sprinklers, disabled fire alarms, and a blocked stairwell contributed to their deaths.
The Bristol County District Attorney’s Office had previously identified the victims as Tomas Gomez-Delacruz, 49, and Juan Macario-Mejia, 40.
“This fire is a terrible tragedy and on behalf of the city of New Bedford and our firefighters, I offer my deepest condolences to the families,” Acting New Bedford Fire Chief Scott Kruger said. “This fire clearly demonstrates that fire sprinklers buy time and time buys life. The deaths occurred in the non-sprinklered building and everyone in the sprinklered building was able to escape safely.”
According to a release from the state fire marshal’s office, the fire started in the alleyway between 1279 and 1283 Acushnet Avenue when smoking materials dropped from an upper floor, igniting trash and debris next to a dumpster.
The fire marshal’s office said the New Bedford Fire Department was notified of the fire at 12:15 a.m. on April 19 by the fire alarm monitoring company for 1283 Acushnet Avenue, and that the sprinklers allowed for all residents of that building to escape safely.
“The two victims were found in 1279 Acushnet Avenue, a four-story building with commercial space on the first floor and two apartments on the second, third and fourth floors. The building had no sprinklers and no central alarm system,” the state fire marshal’s office said in the release. “Many of the smoke alarms appeared disabled and were clearly more than 10 years old. Residents stored items in the rear stairwell, blocking it as a means of escape.”
“In Massachusetts, smoke alarms must be replaced after 10 years. The sensing mechanism degrades over time and cannot be relied upon to work when you need it most,” State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said.
“In addition to being expired, many of the smoke alarms in 1279 appeared to have been disabled,” Kruger added.
Forty people are displaced from the two buildings as well as the commercial tenants on the first floors of both buildings. One firefighter suffered minor injuries.
The fire was jointly investigated by the New Bedford Fire Department, New Bedford Police detectives, and State Police assigned to both the Office of the Bristol District Attorney and the Office of the State Fire Marshal.