Officials encourage fire safety after battling 7 fatal fires since December

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Fire officials are reminding people to ensure their home is free of fire hazards, especially since crews across Southern New England have battled seven fatal fires since mid-December.

Back in December, a 70-year-old man died after his condo caught fire in Newport. Then on Jan. 8, a woman’s body was pulled from the rubble after an Onleyville home burnt to the ground. A week later, a woman died after being rushed to the hospital when the triple-decker she was living in caught fire in New Bedford.

On Jan. 26, a fire in Hopkinton claimed the life of a man who’s house was destroyed by an early morning fire. That same night, a father and son died in a house fire in Coventry. This week, a man was found dead in his home after a serious fire in Taunton Tuesday, and a body was pulled from a Portsmouth home after a massive fire Wednesday morning.

“It is just heartbreaking to see these stories where lives are lost,” East Providence Fire Chief Oscar Elmasian said. “What’s even more heartbreaking is when it involves a small child.”

Elmasian said firefighters everywhere work hard to prevent deaths, but cut backs have hit public outreach. He said more spending in communities to educate people on fire safety could help prevent these fatal fires from happening, and would give fire marshals like Captain Kenneth Botelho a place to provide tips and advice to residents.

“What it would do is educate them to educate their children and in the cycle we could change the culture,” Elmasian said.

Botelho said everyone should have a fire safety plan in the event of an emergency, especially if you have small children.

“The main point we want to get across is if you detect smoke in your home, get out,” Botelho said. “Get your family out and don’t go back in.”

Botelho said it is important to make sure smoke detectors are working, because they can save your life.

“Life or death,” Botelho said. “Early notification is key.”