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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Information Released on Recent Somerville Fires

Of nine fires, three now ruled as intentional, three as accidental, three remain under investigation.

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan, and Somerville public safety officials held a press conference today to provide the community with an update on the ongoing investigation into recent fires that have occurred in Somerville. Over the last three months, nine house fires have occurred, the most recent of which occurred on Sunday, August 18, on Belmont St. The State Fire Marshal’s office has ruled three of these fires to be accidental. Three others remain under investigation. However, three have now been ruled as intentionally set. Public Safety officials are seeking information and assistance from the community to assist the investigation of these fires, and also urge all residents to carefully review and follow the fire safety and arson prevention tips below.

“To date, we are fortunate that these fires have not resulted in any significant injury or loss of life to any member of our community or our public safety personnel. Our firefighters and first responders have done a great job,” said Mayor Curtatone. “We are aggressively pursuing a number of leads and have been working and continue to work closely with both state and federal agencies on this investigation. As a precaution, even before the determination of incendiary arson, the Somerville Police stepped up patrols. We are being vigilant. However, now that the State Fire Marshall has ruled three of these fires to be intentional, we also urge the community to be vigilant. Be alert to your surroundings and report any suspicious behavior or information about the fires to the Somerville Police or the State Arson Tip Line at 1-800-682-9229. We also urge everyone to follow the safety tips provided by our Fire Department to keep their families, themselves and their homes safe.”

The Arson Watch Reward Program offers up to $5,000 and the City of Somerville is offering up to $10,000 (for a total of up to a $15,000) for any information leading to the arrest and prosecution of any person involved with the setting of any of these fires. Contact the Somerville Police with any tips regarding any of the fires under investigation at 617-625-1600 or contact the State Arson Hotline at 1-800-682-9229.

It is important to note that three of the fires were deemed accidental, and three others remain under investigation, but that the ruling on these or any of the nine fires could change. Therefore it is equally important that residents take normal fire safety precaution steps to protect against accidental fires as well. We ask that all community members heed the following fire safety and arson prevention tips:

Call it in:

  • Report any smoke or fires to the Fire Department immediately by calling 9-1-1. Don’t assume someone else will call it in.
  • Report any suspicious behavior to the Police Department immediately by calling 9-1-1.
  • Contact the Somerville Police with any tips regarding any of the fires under investigation:
  • Call 617-625-1600 or
  • Text tips anonymously by texting to the number "TIP411" ( 847411 ). Put "617spd" at the beginning of your text message. If your message requires an emergency response PLEASE DO NOT TEXT and instead call 9-1-1.

Protect yourself, your family, and your home:

  • Check batteries in smoke alarms and ensure they are operating.
  • DO NOT use grills on porches, on any floor of your home.
  • If you use air conditioners, be sure they are plugged into updated and secure sockets or surge protectors. Only plug extension cords into one outlet, and do not run cords under any rugs.
  • Avoid smoking on porches, or while sitting in bed or on couches.
  • Dispose of cigarettes properly in deep ashtrays or cans with sand.
  • Remove overstuffed furniture from porches.
  • NEVER clean with gasoline, or store it in warm places.
  • Remove all highly flammable items from areas close to your home, such as piles of leaves or papers, volatile liquids, etc.
  • Keep your home secure: Lock all doors and windows including basement doors and windows.
  • Keep lighting on at night: Leave your front and back porch lights on.
  • Have an escape plan:
  • Have an escape plan and discuss it with your family or housemates: Plan two routes of escape from any room and pick a meeting spot safely away from the house.
  • Do not stop to collect any belongings. Consider putting valuable or irreplaceable items in a fire-proof box now so you will not be tempted to look for them when escaping.
  • Know how to crawl away from a fire. When exiting, stay low because smoke rises. Smoke can weaken your ability to respond in an emergency or suffocate you.
  • Educate your children. They are likely to hide in a closet or under a bed during a fire if they haven’t been told what to do.
  • Do not reenter a burning building for any reason.

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