Smoking caused apartment fire

By Stephen Betts | Sep 04, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts Firefighters work to douse a fire at 16 Suffolk St. in Rockland.

Rockland — The Aug. 31 fire that heavily damaged one apartment in a Suffolk Street duplex was an accident caused by smoking, according to the fire chief.

Rockland Fire Chief Christopher Whytock said the investigation concluded that smoking ignited a couch on the first floor.

The sole resident of that apartment was able to escape without injury. The apartment at 16 Suffolk St., however, was heavily damaged.

Quick response by Rockland, Rockport and Camden firefighters limited the damage, with the adjoining 14 Suffolk St. apartment only receiving smoke damage.

The state fire marshal's office assisted Rockland in trying to determine the cause.

Last week, Rockland Assistant Fire Chief Mikial Mazzeo said crews did a "hell of a job" in knocking down the roaring fire.

The fire was reported by a neighbor at about 2:30 a.m.

The first-floor of the 16 Suffolk St. side was fully engulfed in flames when the first crews arrived, and quickly spread to the second floor.

The property is owned by Anthony and Nikalee Esposito, according to Rockland assessment records. The residence was built in 1898 and is assessed by the city at $184,000. The two units were both rented out, the assistant chief said.

Anthony Esposito said Friday he could not have more praise for the efforts of the firefighters.

"People complain about taxes in Rockland, and I have been one of them," Esposito said. "But I will never complain again."

He said their efforts saved the building from complete destruction. He said firefighters were even boarding up openings, something he figured he was going to have to have done.

Fire trucks were lined along streets stretching from Water to Suffolk, Fulton and Pacific streets during the height of the firefighting.

Firefighters noted that they found no working smoke alarms present on any floor in the unit, according to Chief Whytock.

"It is likely that proper smoke alarms would have given earlier warning resulting in less damage. It also appears the occupant, like so many, was under the false impression that opening more doors would help limit dangerous conditions, when in fact the opposite is true," the chief said.

The chief said the contents in modern residences are made of formed petroleum in the form of plastics or other similar fuels, which reach their maximum temperatures much faster and therefore consume much greater quantities of oxygen. In dwellings where the openings are kept closed, this rapid consumption of oxygen often leads to “under- ventilated” fires, which tend to quickly “choke themselves out” moving to the smoldering phase, according to the chief. When this occurs, a residential contents fire can actually put itself out by consuming all the available oxygen.

"So while conventional thinking would have people opening doors and windows to let the smoke and heat out; leaving and closing the doors behind you is the best course of action, even if there are other people still inside the building. Chances of survival are greater when the fire cannot grow. Even firefighters' tactics have recently been updated to reflect the importance of controlling the airflow in building fires," the chief concluded.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Ananur Forma | Sep 05, 2018 12:21

I did contact the fire dept. to learn the rules and regs. So sorry you're so upset. I am glad that you did not get hurt in the fire........although I do not think that you were there.

Posted by: Annmarie Hamblen | Sep 04, 2018 20:13

Regardless, SMOKING is what caused the HORRIFIC fire!!! Enough said, you have a issue, contact the FURE CHIEF and or the Cops!!! PERIOD....IF you can't stand realty step out of the f****** kitchen, know your fats which clearly you don't.

Posted by: Ananur Forma | Sep 04, 2018 11:34

It is my understanding that the landlord/lady is responsible for putting smoke detectors in the residence. It is by law, the residents' responsibility to keep the smoke detectors running properly with batteries. Will this person responsible for the fire get charged?

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Sep 04, 2018 11:01

Yes, Chief, they did one heck of a good job at suppression.  Kudos!!

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