4 Fires in Westwood on Thursday, Nov. 16th Were Accidental and Unrelated, Says State Fire Official
It was a “fluke” that four fires that broke out in Westwood on the same day on Thursday, November 16, 2023, says Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (DFS) Public Information Officer Jake Wark, who notes that state and local officials agree that the fires at Mill Street, Southwest Park, and two fires at Alder Road were accidental and unrelated.
Mr. Wark notes that the state's DFS worked with Westwood Fire Department and Westwood Police Department to investigate the cause of each fire. State and local officials were unable to definitively determine a cause to any of the fires, he says. However, he has provided additional details and gives possibilities which have not been ruled out.
Mr. Wark says the state was alerted to the fire at 50 Alder Road around 2:30 p.m., which appears to have been started in the area of a rear deck to the residence. There was also a grill on the deck. After the fire was extinguished in the afternoon, the fire reignited that night. The state did not provide a response to the reignited fire, he says.
The specific cause of the fire at the Alder Road residence is undetermined, says Mr. Wark, but he also provides the general information that fires that originate on residential decks are often caused by improper disposal of smoking materials. As an example, he says cigarette butts may be flipped over the edge of the deck and land on dry leaves, where they may smolder and may later burst into flame when people are not present. Mr. Wark advises that smokers should always use ash trays. Because cigarettes can reignite, they should be carefully “put out, all the way, every time,” he says.
At 2:50 p.m., DFS was called for assistance with what Mr. Wark describes as a lab fire. The fire was located at 35 Southwest Park, the address of CGL Electronic Security, which has a repair facility on site. The Hazmat team (Hazardous Materials Emergency Response division) was summoned due to manufacturing chemicals that were both flammable and harmful to the environment, says Mr. Wark. However, air meter readings resulted in “zero readings,” which likely means the chemicals had been “burned off” in the fire, he says.
Regarding the fire at 65 Mill Street, the address of the historic Daniel Draper house, Mr. Wark notes that DFS was alerted at 9:18 p.m., and by the time it’s response team arrived at the scene, the house had already suffered “catastrophic damage.” As a result, a detailed examination of the fire’s cause was unable to be performed. The cause will remain undetermined, he says.
According to Mr. Wark, while an extension cord could not be determined to be the cause of this fire, there was some evidence that a cord may have been run from a shed to the home’s basement. Mr. Wark notes that when using extension cords outdoors, it is important that they be outdoor rated, and that heating or cooling appliances that use a great amount of energy should be considered incompatible with extension cords which are meant for use as “lamp cords.”
The causes of all four fires are “undetermined” at this point, Mr. Wark emphasizes. He adds that investigators from the state agree with local officials that each of the four fires at the three locations were accidental, unintentional, and unrelated.
Westwood Minute asked Mr. Wark whether there are any factors that may have increased the possibility of fire on that Thursday. Mr. Wark responds that at this time of year, fallen leaves on the ground, after a period of no rain, are like “tinder on the ground that’s just fuel for a fire.”
Both Mr. Wark and Westwood Fire Department Public Information Officer Carolyn Wade each say they cannot recall a day with so many fires in town. Usually, when there are multiple fires occurring in a day in a town, it is a larger, urban setting and the fires are related, says Mr. Wark. He considers the unrelated fires of last Thursday in Westwood to be an anomaly. Westwood Fire Public Information Officer Carolyn Wade similarly remarks that in her many years of working at Westwood Fire Department, she cannot recall a day with as many fires.
No person was physically injured in any of the four fires. However, pets were victims of the fire at the Mill Street home, according to Ms. Wade, who notes that no pets were found alive there.
Thanks to Jake Wark and Carolyn Wade for speaking with Westwood Minute.