On a Tuesday night in January 2001 the Collum house at 18 Lafayette Street went up in flames. Harold Bowen once wrote that this house had been built from lumber that was salvaged when a tall wood fence surrounding Bialek Park was removed early in the 20th Century.
Lisa Collum and her two young daughters were trapped on the third floor by the fire and perished despite heroic attempts to rescue them by the Ipswich fire department, assisted by teams from neighboring towns. An overloaded extension cord was suspected as the source of the fire, but inspectors were unable to rule out cigarettes or candles. Inspectors discovered that hard-wired smoke detectors had been disconnected in order to add an additional electrical circuit in the house. Battery-powered units were also in the building, but it is unknown if they were in operating condition. There was no emergency egress from the third floor. Read the state fire marshal’s report.
Five years later the documentary Into the Fire was created about that tragic night. The video is sad but well worth watching. It provides a wake-up call about the importance of maintaining sufficient fire and emergency services in a community.