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The Boston Globe

Metro

House fire kills woman in Gloucester

7th such death in state this year

A two-alarm fire tore through a single-family house in Gloucester Saturday night, claiming the life of the resident, according to the Gloucester Fire Department. It was the seventh fire fatality in the state this year.

Officials have not released the identity of the victim, but a neighbor said a woman lived alone in the house with her two dogs. “She’s a very nice lady,” said Lori Osborn, who lives next door and said she called 911. “She’s a good neighbor.”

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“It was orange,” Osborn said of the fire. “I opened up the blinds and I just saw fire.”

When firefighters arrived at 4 Windsor Lane, the house was engulfed in flames, said Gloucester Fire Chief Eric Smith.

Osborn said she did not see any signs of a fire while she was on the first floor of her home just before 11 p.m. Five minutes later, however, when she went upstairs to her bedroom, flames were bursting from the skylights of her neighbor’s house.

Smith said firefighters had no problems putting out the fire, but said it might have been less serious had they had known about the fire earlier.

“The most important point, based on an educated guess, is the victim did not apparently flee the home,” he said. “There is indication there may not have been smoke detectors or working smoke detectors.”

The cause of the fire had not been determined and remained under investigation, said State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan.

The Gloucester fire is the most recent in an already hectic year for firefighters, amid bitter cold temperatures.

“This is our seventh fatality since the new year,” said Coan. “We’re not off to a good start.”

Three fatal fires in Holyoke, Winchendon, and Chelmsford over the first weekend of January killed four people, including a 15-year-old girl.

Another fire took the life of 21-year-old James E. Hoffman, of Stoughton, in Amherst on Jan. 21, said the Northwestern district attorney’s office. That fire is still being investigated, Coan said.

Last Thursday, a fire in Barre killed Josephine S. Masulaitis, 89, according to the Worcester district attorney’s office. Her Trafalgar Square residence also did not appear to have working smoke detectors, according to Coan.

There were 37 fire fatalities in 2012, according to the state Department of Fire Services’ preliminary numbers for last year. The state’s record low for fire deaths is 36 in 2010.

It is not unusual that there has been an uptick in fires during this cold January, according to Coan.

“Historically you see an increase in fire in the colder winter months,” said Coan. Heating systems tend to be running more frequently and can often lead to fires. The extreme cold Massachusetts has been experiencing this winter correlates with a higher number of fires, he said.

“Many times it’s combustible material being too close to a wood stove or a space heater,” said Coan. He stressed the the importance of using smoke detectors and making sure they are properly installed.

“Clearly there is a direct connection to fatalities in homes and the lack of operating smoke alarms,” Coan said.

Derek J. Anderson can be reached at derek.anderson@globe.com.

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