Authorities have disclosed the cause of a fire last month in Springfield, Massachusetts that claimed the life of a father and two toddlers.
State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey said a child using matches was the cause of the fire on March 18th in a four-story apartment building that claimed the three lives, injured four people, and temporarily left 80 people homeless.
" Children using matches and lighters is a common problem, nationally, and across Massachusetts," said Ostroskey
From 2012-2016 there were 531 fires set by children in Massachusetts resulting in one death, 24 injuries to civilians, 27 firefighter injuries, and an estimated $7 million in property damage, according to information provided by the Fire Marshal’s office.
" Every fire starts small and every fire has the ability to take a life, which is why adults need to take every use of fire by children and youth seriously," said Ostroskey. "Children do not have the ability to understand how dangerous fire is or that they cannot control it."
The fire at 49 Belmont Avenue claimed the lives of Aden Abdakadr and his two children Ahmet, 2, and Fatumo Ahmed, 1. The fire began in the second floor apartment where the victims lived.
Authorities did not release the identity of the child accused of starting the fire, and declined to reveal the child’s age.
Springfield Fire Commissioner Bernard Calvi said “appropriate counseling” for the child would be provided through the Springfield Public Schools.
In addition, investigators found the battery operated smoke alarm inside the family’s apartment was not working. Residents of the building were not alerted to the danger until smoke from the fire reached alarms in the common hallways.
"Also, once a smoke detector goes off and you notice a fire in your apartment building or house, get out and stay out," warned Calvi. " We believe one of the parents went back in to try to fight the fire and that led to his death."
The apartment building is home to several refugee families from Somalia, and the fire department has contacted leaders of Somali and other refugee communities to provide fire safety education.
"We have literature on fire education and safety translated into several different languages and have already done outreach several of the l different communities in Springfield. There have been an influx of Somalis coming in and so we are going to reach out to them again and do some more education," said Calvi.
Mayor Domenic Sarno, who attended the news conference Wednesday where the cause of the fire was announced, said it was “a tragedy all around.”
" As we move forward we want to make sure that this does not happen again," said Sarno.
The mayor praised the community response which included donations to a relief fund. He said the displaced tenants have been able to return to their apartments after repairs were made or move to new apartments.