Agawam announces safe smoking initiative after deadly fire

Hampden County

AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) – The Town of Agawam held a news conference Friday afternoon to announce a smoking cessation and safe smoking initiative after a deadly fire in Agawam on Monday.

The goal was to remind residents in Agawam and throughout the state to always put your cigarettes all the way out and to never smoke inside. Not doing so could be dangerous and deadly.

The cause of Monday’s fire at 74 Springfield Street was determined to be accidental and investigators determined the victim Shirley Dearborn, who was the only resident of the house, had been smoking in bed. To complicate matters, the victim was also a user of medical oxygen.

The use of medical oxygen creates an oxygen-rich environment in your home, which can cause fires to start and spread more easily. Agawam Fire Chief Alan Sirois says those who use oxygen should take precautions such as keeping their oxygen machine and tubing away from any potential heat sources.

“Medical oxygen accelerates fire growth,” said Chief Sirois. “It could be a very slow burn in open air but as soon as there is any medical oxygen applied in that fashion it’s a very rapid flare up, very rapid and aggressive flare up.”

Months earlier in June another Agawam resident died from a fire that was caused by a cigarette butt that was improperly disposed of.

While these are the only two deaths caused by structure fires in Agawam in more than 25 years, Agawam Fire Chief Alan Sirois said smoking fires are quite common. He also provided ways these fires can be avoided.

“These are two fatal fires that I’ve referenced in the last eight months, but to be honest with you I’ve lost count on the amount of smoking fires I’ve been to. Never smoke near medical oxygen, always dispose of your cigarette in a proper receptacle and put your cigarette all the way out every time,” said Chief Sirois.

Shirley Dearborn’s family was also in attendance at Friday’s announcement.

“In memory of her, I just want to say safely put the cigarettes where they are supposed to be and just please please don’t smoke with the oxygen,” said William Dearborn, Shirley’s son.

If you or a loved one uses oxygen, make sure there are working smoke alarms throughout the home, they should be tested monthly

As part of this program, Chief Sirois said the department will launch a web page on the town’s website that will provide resources and educational materials about safe smoking.

The department will also work with the housing authority to target specific individuals who may benefit.

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