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The Boston Globe

Metro

Cause of fatal Methuen blaze still unknown

A firefighter moved through the scene of a blaze that killed an elderly couple in Methuen on Wednesday.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe staff

A firefighter moved through the scene of a blaze that killed an elderly couple in Methuen on Wednesday.

The cause of Wednesday morning’s fatal blaze on Buttonwood Drive in Methuen cannot be determined because of the extensive damage to the home, but the fire does not appear suspicious, authorities said today in a statement.

Two people, James and Thelma McDermott, 81 and 79, died in the fire, the Globe reported today.

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“We extend our condolences to the family and friends of these victims,” Methuen Fire Chief Steven Buote said in a statement. “A fatal fire is difficult not only for them but for the community as a whole.”

The home had no working smoke alarms, said the statement issued by Buote and other fire officials.

“Death by fire is an awful way to lose an elderly relative or friend,” said State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. “I would encourage each of us to make sure our own parents, grandparents or older neighbors have working smoke alarms.”

The fire was reported by a police officer on patrol early Wednesday morning. The roof and first floor collapsed into the basement of the home. Because of the damage to the home it was difficult to identify a cause of the fire, which appeared to have started in the attached garage, the officials said.

Investigators believe the fire was accidental, and was likely caused by improper disposal of fireplace ashes, electrical failure, or a motor vehicle, officials said.

A dog also died in the fire and several cats are missing.

The fire was investigated by the Methuen Fire Department, the Methuen Police Department, and State Police assigned to both the fire marshal’s office and the Essex County district attorney’s office.

Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at jacqueline.tempera@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @jacktemp

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