Discarded smoking materials cause of Ayer house fire: officials

The home at 20 Bligh Street in Ayer, which suffered major damage from a two-alarm fire that took place on Saturday, Feb. 22

AYER — Officials have determined that the improper disposal of smoking materials caused Friday’s house fire that injured an adult, destroyed the structure and killed a dog.

Ayer Fire Chief Robert J. Pedrazzi and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey made the announcement about the fire at 20 Bligh St. in a Monday afternoon press release. The officials said residents were smoking on the porch and didn’t take the necessary precautions.

The fire originated on an exterior wooden porch of the single-family home. Residents had smoked on the porch earlier in the day and used a small, plastic wastebasket to dispose of the smoking materials, officials said. There was additional evidence of smoking under the porch and in the driveway. The fire was reported around 5 p.m. by a neighbor who alerted the residents. Another neighbor tried to put out the fire.

“We are fortunate that the sleeping residents were able to escape safely,” Pedrazzi said. “Smoking materials can smolder for a long time before starting a fire. It is important to properly dispose of smoking materials in a can of sand or water or a deep sturdy ashtray.”

“Smoking is a leading cause of fire deaths,” Ostroskey said. “Learn to be a responsible smoker. Put it out. All the way. Every time.”

Shannon Holleran, who rented the home she lived in with her 11-month-old daughter and her daughter’s father, Dana Patra, said her family lost all their possessions in the two-alarm fire.

She previously said she was napping on the second floor of the two-story home around 4 p.m. when she heard screaming.

When she came downstairs, a neighbor had kicked down the door and told her the house was on fire. The fire alarms had not gone off due to the fire starting in the front porch.

Holleran said she tried to go back upstairs to save the family dog but couldn’t see through the smoke and the staircase had started to catch fire. Holleran was later transported to an area hospital due to smoke inhalation. She said her mother-in-law took her daughter to her house while Holleran was being treated.

The fire department knocked the fire down within an hour, Ayer Fire Capt. Timothy Shea told The Sun. The building is a “tear-down project” and it will likely cost the owner, Roy DeHart, $200,000 to demolish and rebuild the home.

Holleran said everything her family owns was either melted or suffered water damage. She and her family are currently staying at her mother-in-law’s house and looking for a new place to stay.

A GoFundMe campaign started for the family can found at bit.ly/3c4EPa6.

Luke O’Roark on Twitter: @LukeORoark