Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Autopsy results awaited in Amherst fire investigation

Amherst Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson said Monday that the circumstances surrounding the Jan. 21 blaze depends on a final report from the medical examiner.

“A lot of what the medical examiner’s report says will have some bearing on the eventual outcome,” Nelson said. “We’ve got to wait for that.”

Investigators are continuing interviews with those affected by the fire.

His department is trying to spread the message that residents need to consider whether they are doing anything unsafe that could lead to a fire.

“It’s sad because it usually takes a death to raise awareness,” Nelson said.

Even after the death of James “Jake” Hoffman in the Rolling Green blaze, Nelson said that early Friday morning firefighters went to a UMass fraternity where they found smoke detectors missing and covered up, and some residents refusing to leave the residence even as an alarm sounded. There was no fire in the building.

Nelson said the Fire Department is working with UMass officials to make sure the fraternity members are aware of safety rules.

“We’re using this as a means of changing behavior, to get the word out that this is something you can’t do because you’ll end up dead,” Nelson said.

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