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Methuen woman found dead after blaze

METHUEN — The daughter of a late city firefighter died early Monday after a two-alarm blaze erupted inside the 19th-century colonial-style home where she lived alone, officials and family members said.

Authorities identified her as 50-year-old Lisa A. Shirton. Investigators are looking into an electrical problem as the possible cause of the fire in the Park Street residence, said Assistant Fire Chief Michael Hamel. The blaze was not deemed to be suspicious.

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Shirton’s body was found after the fire was extinguished, seated in a chair inside an addition that had been built onto the first floor of the house, said Deputy Fire Chief Sean Nartiff. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Hopefully, she never knew what hit her,” said Ellie Shirton, her aunt. “I hope not.”

Shirton died in the same room where her father, retired firefighter Walter “Big Wally” Shirton, died nearly four years age at age 77 after a long illness, relatives said.

Walter Shirton retired from the Methuen Fire Department in 1987, the city said. He worked out of a fire station on Lowell Street, which responded to the blaze at his former home, firefighters said.

Lisa Shirton was the third person to die in a fire in Methuen this year. In February, James and Thelma McDermott died in a blaze in their home on Buttonwood Drive.

Statewide, 17 people and two Boston firefighters have died in fires so far this year, according to figures from the office of state Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan.

Family, friends, and neighbors spent part of the day retrieving what belongings they could from the burnt-out shell of the brown, two-story house, which was built in 1870, according to city assessing records. The home sustained $100,000 in damage, Nartiff said.

“They can’t save her, but at least they can save some mementoes,” said Wesley Heflin, 77, who lives across the street and helped go through the charred house.

Jim Shirton said his niece’s family had lived there since the 1960s or 1970s.

His wife, Ellie, recalled that when Shirton was 6, she was a flower girl in her wedding.

A police officer patrolling the neighborhood saw the house in flames and reported it to firefighters about 3:30 a.m., Nartiff said. He said the house had working smoke alarms.

Heflin said the fire had already consumed some of the house when he saw it.

“The whole back of the house was engulfed,” he said.

Heflin said Lisa Shirton’s death was particularly tragic, given her father’s line of work.

“It would have broken his heart,” he said.

Catalina Gaitan contributed. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.
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