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Cold Weather Plays Role In Two Mass. Fires

By Bobby Sisk, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – The Massachusetts Fire Marshal’s office is issuing a warning after two fires with weather-related causes. The cold temperatures are also leading to difficulty for crews trying to battle these flames.

The first happened shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday morning in West Bridgewater. “My dad left me this property and my son and I did a lot of the work here,” said homeowner Brad Herrick. By the time fire crews got to Herrick’s home, it was engulfed. Just finding water proved difficult. “The first hydrant they found was frozen which mean they had to find another hydrant. The next three hydrants beyond that were also frozen,” said West Bridgewater Fire Chief Leonard Hunt.

That problem is a concern for departments all over the area during the winter months. In Randolph, Fire Chief Richard Donovan doesn’t remember any recent frozen hydrants, but they are vigorously checked and his crews are ready for anything in this weather. “You have to be thinking about that all the time to keep an eye on your equipment to make sure it’s not failing and to keep an eye on your personnel,” he said.

For homeowners, let the cause of the West Bridgewater fire, be a lesson. The Fire Marshal confirmed wood stove ashes left in a bag on the front steps started the flames. “Those embers that you take out of the wood stove, make sure they’re doused completely with water and stored far away from any combustible material,” Chief Donovan added. The Fire Marshal’s recommendation is to use a metal ashcan with a lid and store it away from the house.

In Somerville, it was a propane torch used to thaw pipes that started a fire on Mt. Vernon Street. It badly damaged a home on Mt. Pleasant street and displaced seven people who lived there. Neighbor Odair Servino says he had unknowingly done the same when he lived in East Boston. “I never use that again, man. Because I don’t know that. When you told me, I was so surprised,” he said. Homeowners are urged to use other options like a wet towel, a hair dryer or even a heating pad. Anything with an open flame can also lead to a risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.

In addition to fire prevention, firefighters ask residents this time of year to help keep hydrants near their home clear of ice and snow. And if they do see one caked in ice, let their local Department of Public Works or Fire Department know. “It’s nobody’s fault. When it’s zero degrees outside, the hydrants freeze and unfortunately you don’t know they’re frozen until you go to use them,” said Chief Hunt in West Bridgewater.

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