Ipswich blaze was “not an accidental fire”

Officials believe someone set fire to a laundry room in the management office of an Ipswich subsidized senior housing complex Friday evening, State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said.

“It is not an accidental fire,” said Coan, whose office is investigating the fire. As of late Saturday afternoon, no arrests had been made.

The one-story brick building with a wood frame truss roof serves as the management office for Agawam Village, a subsidized senior housing complex managed by the Ipswich Housing Authority, Ipswich Fire Lieutenant Andy Theriault said.

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The building does not house any residents, and was empty when the fire began—save for, possibly, the person or people who started the fire, Coan said.

Ipswich firefighters responded to the fire shortly after 8 p.m., Theriault said, and stayed for just under three hours.

An initial report showed firefighters followed the appropriate procedures, knocking down the blaze, looking for smoldering remains, and checking for hot spots with a thermal imaging camera, Coan said.

But embers reignited in the ventilation system, Coan said, setting fire to the roof.

Ipswich firefighters returned to the building shortly before 2:30 a.m., Theriault said.

“What it appears is that the embers that embedded themselves from the first fire in a hidden void, and could not be found through observation or use of a thermal imaging camera,” Coan said.

The firefighters “did their due diligence” and did not appear to have been negligent, he said.

No injuries were reported in either fire. The last firefighters left the scene at 7:30 a.m., Theriault said.

Carolann Collum, who said she has lived in Agawam Village for seven years, said she saw the scorched building out her window when she woke up Saturday.

“I looked out my window, and I could see they were working on boarding it up already, early in the morning,” she said.

She slept through most of the fire, but said she woke up around 4:30 a.m. and saw firefighters walking around the area. Collum thought it was an unusual sight, but because she did not see the fire, she was unsure why they were there.

“I still couldn’t see,” she said. “It was dark out.”

She did not see police or fire officials questioning neighbors, she said.