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Apr. 7—LAWRENCE — The five-alarm fire that displaced 16 residents on Bennington and Saratoga streets on Easter Sunday was caused by a cigarette that caught fire in a carport attached to the back at 14 Saratoga St., officials said Wednesday.
In a joint statement, Mayor Kendrys Vasquez, fire Chief Brian Moriarty, police Chief Roy Vasque and state Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey underscored the importance of properly getting rid of smoking materials.
"It's good that smokers go outdoors to smoke, but it is so important to properly dispose of smoking materials," Moriarty said. "Use a metal can filled with water and sand. Don't drop on the ground, in mulch or dried leaves or potted plants or mix with trash."
According to fire officials, the fire spread to 19 Bennington St. and 12 Saratoga St. All three properties are destroyed.
The blaze also heavily damaged 16 Saratoga St., 21 Bennington St. and 23 Bennington St. A car and motorcycle were destroyed, the fire marshal's office said. Damages are estimated at more than $1 million.
Twenty-six mutual aid companies from across Massachusetts and New Hampshire came to assist Lawrence with fighting the fire.
In the statement released Wednesday, Vasquez praised Moriarty for guiding the Lawrence Fire Department through the massive blaze.
"This fire was devastating, but it could have been a lot worse without the leadership and quick thinking of our fire Chief Brian Moriarty and the Lawrence Fire Department in addition to the mutual aid received from other communities," Vasquez said. "It is important for members of our community to understand the importance of fire safety. We must regularly change the batteries in our smoke alarms, come up with a plan for escaping a fire in the case one arises in our home, and make sure that if there is a fire we give the Fire Department plenty of space and keep a distance in order for them to be able to do their job."
One woman was taken to Lawrence General Hospital following the fire with undisclosed injuries, officials said. She was treated and released. There were no firefighter injuries.
Heal Lawrence, a nonprofit aimed at helping local fire victims get back on their feet, is collecting gift cards and money to assist families. Gift cards to Market Basket, Walmart, Target or area restaurants may be dropped off at the Lawrence Senior Center, 155 Haverhill St., with "Heal Lawrence" written on them.
Checks made payable to Heal Lawrence's fiscal agent, the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, are accepted by mail, with Heal Lawrence in the memo line. They may be mailed to GLCAC at 305 Essex St., Lawrence, MA 01840.