WEST NEWBURY—West Newbury Fire Chief Michael Dwyer and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said today that the investigation into the Aug. 8 fire at the Pentucket Regional Middle and High School building project did not reveal evidence of criminal activity.
West Newbury Fire responded to the school campus at 22 Main St. at about 3:45 that afternoon for a report of smoke showing from the roof. Upon arrival, firefighters found smoke showing from the roof in the rear of the construction site. A First Alarm response was requested, followed minutes later by a Second Alarm response, sending in mutual aid units from several area communities to the scene. The fire was knocked down in a matter of minutes by fire crews, and no injuries were reported.
The joint investigation by the West Newbury Fire Department and the State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office, assisted by the State Police Crime Scene Services Section, identified potential causes, including electrical wiring and smoking materials, that could not be ruled out entirely. While there is no evidence that the fire was intentionally set, the relevant National Fire Protection Association Standard requires investigators to classify a fire as undetermined if they cannot eliminate all but one possible cause of a fire. As a result, the cause will be officially undetermined.
The Aug. 8 fire followed another fire two days earlier at the same site. In that case, investigators determined the fire to be accidental, caused by sparks from a grinder used in the construction process that ignited nearby adhesive.
Mutual aid was provided during the Aug. 8 fire by the Georgetown, Groveland, Merrimac, Newbury and Newburyport Fire Departments. Atlantic Ambulance also responded to the scene.