Victim of fatal Athol fire identified

Multiple area fire departments battled a three-alarm house fire at 92 Fern St. in Athol on Sept. 7.

Multiple area fire departments battled a three-alarm house fire at 92 Fern St. in Athol on Sept. 7. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ


Athol Daily News Editor

Published: 09-14-2023 7:38 PM

ATHOL — The state Department of Fire Services has identified the woman who died in the Sept. 7 house fire at 92 Fern St. as 62-year-old Jacqueline M. Doherty.

Doherty was described by Town Manager Shaun Suhoski as a beloved member of the community who was active in her church and neighborhood.

“I again want to express our sympathies to Ms. Doherty’s family and loved ones,” Athol Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera said in a statement.

A second occupant of the home was transported to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and is recovering, according to the Department of Fire Services. Two cats also died in the fire.

The fire started with a gas stove in the kitchen, according to Guarnera, Athol Police Chief Craig Lundgren, State Fire Marshal Jon Davine and Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan. Investigators found that one of the knobs on the gas stove was slightly on. Based on the investigation so far, the fire appears to have been accidental.

“About 80% of residential fires in Massachusetts start with cooking equipment,” Guarnera advised in a statement. “Many of these fires can be prevented by using extra caution in the kitchen, but don’t put yourself at risk if a fire does break out — get out, stay out and call 911.”

The Athol Fire Department responded to the Fern Street area following a report of a fire at about 9:45 a.m. Upon arrival, firefighters observed the home to be fully involved, with heavy smoke and flames showing. Firefighters struck a second and then third alarm, bringing mutual aid from a dozen nearby departments. About 40 firefighters battled the blaze for more than an hour.

The fire is being investigated by the Athol Fire Department, Athol Police, State Police assigned to the offices of the State Fire Marshal and Northwestern District Attorney, and District 8 fire investigators. They are supported by the Department of Fire Service’ Code Compliance & Enforcement Unit.

The fire departments of Barre, Oakham, Orange, Fitchburg, Gardner, Phillipston, Petersham, Royalston, Westminster and Winchendon provided mutual aid at the scene. The fire departments of Templeton and Fitchburg provided station coverage.

Max Bowen can be reached at 413-930-4074 or at

An earlier version of this article included an incorrect middle initial for 62-year-old Jacqueline M. Doherty of Athol.