Deadly house fire in Athol ruled accidental

Richard A. Bogan died in fire on South Athol Road

ATHOL, Mass. (WWLP) – A 57-year-old man died during a house fire in a remote section of Athol early Thursday morning. Mary Carey of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office notified 22News that Richard A. Bogan was killed in the fire at the home on South Athol Road.

Athol Fire Chief John Duguay said that the house was engulfed in flames when crews got there, and they were informed that there was one person still inside the building. Firefighters went in, but had to leave once parts of the building started collapsing. “Based upon the conditions at the time, it appears that the victim had already succumbed,” Duguay said in a news release sent to 22News.

Bogan’s son was able to escape, and brought to Athol Hospital to be evaluated.

On Friday, State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said, “The fire has been determined to be accidental. Investigators have ruled out an intentionally-set fire and they believe the most likely cause was either electrical or the improper disposal of smoking materials.”

The fire started in the bedroom where there were a number of electrical appliances; a television, a fan, and a space heater. However, Coan said the destruction of the home did not leave enough evidence for investigators and electrical experts to say with certainty that the fire was electrical.

Firefighters from seven other communities across eastern Franklin County and northwestern Worcester County worked to provide water and cover Athol’s fire station.

Chief Duguay said, “Fire is such a terrible way to lose a loved one, which is why I beg every resident to test their smoke alarms and make sure they are working. No one expects a fire.” There are no reports of anyone hearing the smoke alarms in the home sound the alarm.

More home fires occur in the winter months and the frigid and stormy weather over the next few days will leave heating and electrical systems struggling to keep up.

Below are some safety tips on keeping warm during the cold temperatures from State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan:

“With temperatures plummeting and more snow storms arriving, this is the time when we tend to see more fires,” said State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan. “A working smoke alarm is your first line of defense and will give you precious seconds to escape a fire.” There were no working smoke alarms in an Athol fire that took the life of a disabled man earlier this week.

Keep Warm, Keep Safe

Freezing temperatures make heating and electrical systems work hard to keep up, and when their working at their maximum, is when problems can arise. This is also the time when people may use alternative heating devices such as space heaters, fireplaces, and wood or pellet stoves. “Fire is always unexpected, but here are some quick tips on how to keep warm and keep safe,” said Coan.

Space Heaters

  • Keep them 3-feet away from anything that can burn or catch fire.
  • Plug them directly into the wall outlet; avoid using extension cords.
  • Turn them off when going to bed or leaving the house; don’t leave them running unattended.

Heating Safely with Wood

Coan said, “A single ember can remain hot enough to start a fire for several days in ashes that appear cold. Contact with anything that can catch fire or a breeze can fan them back to life.”

  • Use a fireplace screen – even with glass fronted fireplaces.
  • Dispose of ashes in a metal can with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Store the ashcan outdoors away from the house, porch, deck or garage.
  • Do not dispose of ashes in a cardboard box, plastic container or plastic bag.

In a Fire Seconds Count: Smoke Alarms and 2 Ways Out

“In an actual fire, you may have less than two minutes to get out safely, that’s why working smoke alarms and a practiced home escape plan are so critical,” said Coan.

  • Test smoke and CO alarms to make sure they are working.
  • Replace batteries (unless it uses a 10-year battery) twice a year.
  • Practice your home escape plan in both the daytime and the nighttime.

Coan said, “It’s important to have two ways out. With all the snow we’ve had already and the snow we can expect in the next few days, I would remind people to shovel the snow away from both the main exit and the secondary exit at home and work.”

Clear Snow from Hydrants – #HelpUsHelpYou

“We’ve had a lot of snow so far and I would ask that everyone who is able to do so safely, please shovel out the nearest hydrant. I want to thank all of those across the state who have already responded to that call to ‘help us help up’, and ask that you keep doing so with each new storm.” At this morning’s fatal fire in Revere, there were issues regarding quick access to working hydrants in the snow.

Fire officials across the state appreciate all the help from local residents in shoveling out hydrants, and love seeing the photos of cleared hydrants on social media. Feel free to post your photos and use the hash tag#HelpUsHelpYou.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

As the temperatures drop, there is increased concern that pipes might freeze.

  • Prevent pipes from freezing by dripping the hot and cold water faucets. It is harder for running water to freeze.
  • Unless you have small children at home, open the cupboards underneath sinks to let warmer air circulate.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night.

“Don’t make a bad situation worse; know how to safely thaw pipes without causing a fire,” said Coan.

  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, or wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame devices. A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.
  • If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Be careful using space heaters to warm up areas near pipes. Don’t overload circuits. Try not to use extension cords but if you must, make sure they are rated for the appliance. Heat producing appliances need stronger extension cords than lamps.

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