Smoking Likely Cause of Monday Fire on Maverick Street

Special to the Record

A five-alarm fire that consumed two buildings, damaged two others, and left dozens of people displaced began on a rear porch and may have started with careless disposal of smoking materials, according to Chelsea Fire Chief Leonard A. Albanese, Chelsea Police Chief Keith Houghton, and State Fire Marshal Jon M. Davine. The Chelsea Fire Department responded to Maverick Street at about 11:40 am on March 1 to find heavy fire in the rear of a three-story building. The fire had already extended to a two-story building next door. Second, third, and fourth alarms were struck shortly after arrival and a fifth alarm was struck at about 12:15. At one point early on, two firefighters from Ladder 2 ran low on air while conducting a search on the second floor of 50 Maverick St. and a “May Day” was called. A “May Day” is a distress call which indicates that a firefighter is either trapped or in need of assistance, Albanese said. Members of other Chelsea companies were able to quickly deploy a ground ladder to a second floor window, where both firefighters were safely rescued. The two firefighters were not injured, and returned to work at the scene. No civilian injuries were reported, and firefighters had the blaze under control just after 1:00 pm. There were 5 to 7 families displaced, with upwards of 40 people. Chelsea Emergency Management with the assistance of LaColaborativa provided immediate assistance and support to those displaced. “In Chelsea and other densely built cities and towns, a fire on a back porch can quickly grow to involve multiple buildings,” said Albanese. “Many of these fires start with cigarettes and other smoking materials that are carelessly discarded. They can smolder undetected, spread to the main structure, and extend to nearby homes within minutes. I want to thank the Chelsea and mutual aid firefighters who did a remarkable job containing this fire, which grew very, very quickly. Under slightly different circumstances, the entire neighborhood could have been threatened.” The origin and cause of the fire were investigated by the Chelsea Fire Department, Chelsea Police Department, and State Police fire investigators assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office. They jointly determined that the fire began on a rear porch at 50 Maverick St. While investigators did not reach a conclusive determination on its cause, they agreed that it was not suspicious and that the improper disposal of smoking materials was a potential factor. “We see porch fires every year around this time as the weather starts to warm up,” said Davine. “Remember that grills should never be used on a porch or balcony. If you smoke, or if you have guests who do, please be careful with cigarettes and other smoking materials. Never stub them out on a railing, toss them over the side, or drop them in a planter. The embers can easily ignite dead leaves or other debris and cause a fire that spreads to the home. Always use a heavy ashtray with water or sand and put it out, all the way, every time.”

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