STOW — State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey, Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn, New Bedford Fire Chief Michael W. Gomes and New Bedford Police Chief Joseph C. Cordeiro said Wednesday’s fatal fire at 176 Potter Street in New Bedford was caused by the improper use of smoking materials.

The Bristol District Attorney’s office has identified the victim as 21-year-old Jaxson Leahy. Leahy called 9-1-1, saying he was trapped in a smoke-filled second floor bedroom.

The 7:30 a.m. fire started in the living room, where a marijuana bowl was lit using a butane torch. The smoker left the living room and returned to find the curtains on fire. The resident unsuccessfully attempted to fight the fire. The father of the victim and four of his other children aged--8, 18, 18, and 20--were able to escape the fire. There were no reports of smoke alarms sounding, and the one battery-operated alarm found in the basement had no battery. There were no sprinklers in the home.

Members of the New Bedford Fire and Police Departments and State Police assigned to both the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Bristol District Attorney investigated the fire. Assistance was received from the Department of Fire Services’ Code Compliance Unit.

“This terrible tragedy underscores the importance of having working smoke alarms on every level of your home and a practiced a home escape plan. It is critical everyone knows two ways out of every room and to get out at the first sign of danger," Chief Gomes said. "You may have as little as three minutes to escape before being overcome by poisonous gases.”

“Sadly, 19 people have died in fires so far this year. Seven in fires started by the improper use or disposal of smoking materials," State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said.

--State Fire Marshal's Office

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