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Cause of 9-alarm fire in Salisbury in January remains undetermined

A massive 9-alarm fire in Salisbury in January left residents displaced.M J Kent via EAST KINGSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT

An investigation into a massive, 9-alarm fire in January that destroyed a seaside motel and four residential buildings in Salisbury found no evidence that the conflagration was intentionally set, authorities said Tuesday.

An inspection of the scene, interviews with witnesses, video footage, and other evidence led investigators to determine that the fire began along the side of Michael’s Oceanfront Motel in the early hours of Jan. 17, the state fire marshal and Salisbury police and fire officials said. But because of the extensive fire damage, they said they couldn’t rule out an electrical event or the improper disposal of smoking materials as potential causes.


They said the cause of the fire will formally remain undetermined.

More than 100 firefighters and 30 pieces of fire equipment from Massachusetts and New Hampshire responded to the fire, which was driven by powerful winds and left dozens of residents displaced but no injuries, officials said at the time.

“The magnitude of this fire and the high wind conditions had us very concerned about the community’s safety, and I again want to recognize the work of Salisbury firefighters and the firefighters from surrounding cities and towns who rushed to help in the early morning hours,” Salisbury Fire Chief Scott Carrigan said in a statement Tuesday. “Five buildings were a total loss, but we’re extremely fortunate that this fire was contained and did not cause any injuries or worse.”

Salisbury police and firefighters responded to a 911 call reporting the fire around 1:46 a.m. Firefighters from other Essex County communities as well as from southern New Hampshire soon joined the effort.

Smoking materials and electrical events are the leading causes of fatal fires in the state, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said in the statement.

“As we enter the time of year when more smokers are stepping outside, we want to remind everyone to use a sturdy ashtray with water or sand and put it out, all the way, every time,” Ostroskey said.


Madison Mercado can be reached at madison.mercado@globe.com.