• Victims of fatal Methuen fire identified


    METHUEN, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com) -- A couple and their dog died Wednesday after a fire broke out on Buttonwood Drive in Methuen.

    Fire officials confirmed the fatalities just before 6 a.m.

    The victims were identified as 82-year-old James McDermott and his 79-year-old wife, Thelma. James is a former physical education teacher at Methuen High School. Thelma was a nurse for many years.

    Neighbor Michelle Collins said, "Very sad that a tragedy like that would happen."

    Emergency crews blocked off the road as they battled heavy flames. It took crews over an hour to get the fire under control.

    Once firefighters were able to enter the home, they found the victims. One victim was in the foyer and the other was in an upstairs bathroom. Officials said it appeared the couple was trying to get out of the home.

    The fire apparently started in the garage area, but the exact cause remains under investigation.

    The fire marshall said that there weren't any working smoke detectors in the home.

    State Fire Marshall Stephen Coan said, "There was no indication of a sounding of alarms."

    Coan said the deaths were the tenth and eleventh fire-related fatalities in Massachusetts this year.

    On Valentine's Day in Concord, a couple in their 80s died after a 3-alarm fire destroyed their Cape-style single family home. Tuesday, a man in his 90s was pronounced dead after a fire in South Boston last weekend.

    Coan said, the last five fatalties have all been seniors. The cause, he says in a combination of things.

    "Primarily, it's a result of the very cold winter that we are having. Conditions that people are in their home more often and more frequent in winter time; trying to keep warm, taxing the electric system," he said.

    The state averages about 35-40 fire fatalties in a year. Officials say this year's numbers are not far from that average.

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