Fatal House Fire Cause Released
HOLLISTON — Holliston Fire Chief Michael R. Cassidy, Holliston Police Chief Matthew Stone, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said that a space heater started the January 18, 2021 fire at 623 Winter Street in Holliston. The fire in the one-family home was reported at about 11:40 p.m. Responding firefighters were able to rescue and resuscitate a woman who had initially escaped but re-entered the smoke-filled home in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue 15-20 dogs. She and her husband were taken to a local hospital where she later succumbed to her injuries. The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office has identified her as Ronda Levine, age 77.
Investigators determined that a space heater in a first-floor storage room started the fire. Whether the space heater was too close to something that caught fire, failed, or overloaded the electrical system cannot be specifically determined. The only heat in the home was from multiple electric space heaters used throughout the house. The furnace was not working. There were no working smoke or carbon monoxide alarms in the home.
Members of the Holliston Fire and Police Departments and State Police assigned to both the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Office of the Middlesex District Attorney jointly investigated this fire. Assistance was received from other State Police units and the Code Compliance Unit of the Department of Fire Services.
Chief Cassidy said, “This fire is a terrible tragedy for the Levine family and for the Town of Holliston. Sadly, every tragedy provides us with lessons on how not to have a repeat. Working smoke alarms give you more time to use your home escape plan, and as we teach our youngsters in school, get out and stay out. Never re-enter a burning building.”
Senior homeowners who need help maintaining their heating systems can get help from the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), even if they do not need help with the fuel bills. “A well-maintained furnace prevents fires and carbon monoxide poisoning and is cheaper to run,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. Chief Stone said, “The Holliston Senior Center can help local seniors connect with fuel assistance and other services.”
For more information on winter heating safety, go to www.mass.gov/keepwarmkeepsafe.