NEW BEDFORD, MASS. (WHDH) - A fire that claimed the life of an elderly woman in New Bedford last month was sparked by a towel that she left on top of a gas-powered space heater, officials announced Wednesday.

Louise Barboza, 85, was found dead after a blaze broke out at three-family home she lived in at 354 Coffin Ave. on Oct. 22, New Bedford Fire Chief Paul Coderre Jr., New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro and State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey said in a news release.

Barboza had placed a towel on top of a room gas heater that ignited. She was said to be on the telephone with a relative when the fire broke out.

Firefighters rescued Barboza but she later succumbed to her injuries at Rhode Island Hospital.

“Whether it is an electric space heater or an old-time room gas heater, it is important to keep anything that can catch fire three feet away from them,” Ostroskey reminded the public. “This is a tragic example of what can happen when clothes are placed on a space heater to dry.”

Ostroskey said 136 space heater fires were reported to his office between 2009 and 2018. One of every 68 space heater fires causes a fatality.

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