Five-Alarm Chelsea Fire Highlights Importance of Porch Fire Safety

A five-alarm fire in Chelsea overnight began on a rear porch, prompting a reminder from Chelsea Fire Chief Leonard Albanese and State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey to use caution with any open flame on porches, balconies, and decks.

“The cause of this fire is still under investigation, but it began on a rear porch,” said Chief Albanese. “Porch fires are especially dangerous because they can grow and spread to the rest of the building before anyone inside is aware of the danger. In a densely built area, they can also spread to nearby buildings and put many, many people at risk. It’s especially important to practice fire safety on your porch, balcony, or deck.”

Chief Albanese recommended the following porch safety steps:

• If you plan on grilling, do it on the ground outside. Grills should be at least 10 feet from the building away from any overhangs or branches and not on a porch, deck, or balcony.

• If you smoke or have guests who smoke, use a sturdy ashtray with water or sand and be sure to put it out, all the way, every time.

• Don’t stub out your cigarettes on a railing or drop them in a planter or flick them over the railing. Cigarette butts and embers can ignite dry vegetation, mulch, and debris or cause a smoldering fire that bursts into flame after the smoker has gone indoors.

• A porch may be an escape route in an emergency. Keep it clear of clutter and unnecessary storage that could fuel a fire or block your escape.

“Residents of this building reported hearing smoke alarms and most residents were able to escape safely on their own,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “Others were rescued by firefighters or assisted out of the building, but they all made it out alive. Without working smoke alarms, this five-alarm fire in the middle of the night could have had been a devastating tragedy that claimed more than just property.”

State Fire Marshal Ostroskey offered these smoke alarm reminders:

• Smoke alarms should be on every floor of every home. If your alarms take alkaline batteries, replace the batteries twice a year. We recommend doing this when you change your clocks.

• Smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years. Alarm manufacturing dates are printed on the back of the device. If your alarm was made more than 10 years ago, replace it right away.

• When choosing a new smoke alarm, choose one that has a sealed, 10-year battery and a hush feature.

• Select alarms that are listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory like UL or Intertek/ETL.

Chelsea firefighters responded to the three-story, wood-framed building at 32-34 Cottage St. just after midnight to find heavy fire on all three floors. In addition to causing major damage to this structure, the fire also caused less serious damage to residential buildings on the left and right sides.

Firefighters rescued one person from a third-floor window using a ground ladder and assisted others out of the building on foot. More than 30 people were displaced and are being assisted by the Red Cross. Four residents and two firefighters were transported from the scene for medical care at a local hospital.

Mutual aid companies from Boston, Cambridge, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Revere, Saugus, Somerville, and Winthrop, assisted at the scene. Companies from Belmont, Boston, Cambridge, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Revere, Somerville, and Wakefield provided station coverage. The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Chelsea Fire Department and the State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office.

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