Smoking to blame for fatal fire, New Bedford officials say

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new bedford fire tinkham street_624197

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The cause of a fire that resulted in the death of a New Bedford woman this week was revealed to be the “improper use or disposal of smoking materials,” city officials reported Friday.

The fire started early Wednesday morning on a mattress inside the second floor of a triple-decker on Tinkham Street, investigators said. Firefighters rescued an unconscious woman from the apartment and got her to the hospital, where she died the following day.

The woman was identified Thursday as Agnes Leite, 56.

“I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of Ms. Leite,” New Bedford Fire Chief Michael Gomes said Friday in a statement.

According to city officials, Leite was known to roll her own cigarettes which, unlike their store-bought counterparts, are not designed to be fire resistant when not being smoked.

Officials noted that smoking caused several fires in Massachusetts over the past couple months, including one last week in Rutland that displaced 50 people.

“If your New Year’s resolution was to try to quit smoking, now’s a good time to quit again,” State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey stated. “Many people aren’t successful the first few times.”

He also said the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has a Smoker’s Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

The fire was investigated by members of the New Bedford Fire and Police Departments and state police assigned to the state fire marshal’s office.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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