Flammable vapors ignite
TENNESSEE — Contractors restoring an unoccupied house started a fire that destroyed the dwelling.
The single-family, wood-frame house, which measured 200 feet by 200 feet (61 meters by 61 meters), had wood and brick walls and a cedar-shake-shingled roof. The three-story house had neither smoke alarms nor sprinklers.
One of the contractors had applied a water sealer to the outside and inside of the house against the manufacturer's instructions. As a plumber lit a torch to install a sink, the sealer's flammable vapors ignited, causing a flash fire that quickly engulfed the home.
One of the work crews called 911 to report the fire at 1:40 p.m.
The house, which was valued at $4 million, was a complete loss. A firefighter was injured during firefighting operations.
Embers from charcoal grill ignite deadly fire
MASSACHUSETTS — A 19-year-old man died when embers from a charcoal grill started a fire on a third-floor porch that spread into his apartment, trapping him.
The three-story, wood-frame building, which measured 60 feet by 40 feet (18 meters by 12 meters), contained three apartments. Local smoke alarms installed outside the apartments' kitchens and in the building's rear stairwell operated, waking the occupants of a rear bedroom, allowing them to escape. There were no sprinklers.
A neighbor called 911 to report the fire around 6:00 a.m. Once firefighters extinguished the blaze, investigators determined that embers from the charcoal grill ignited a couch on the porch. The fire grew rapidly, breaking through the kitchen door and spreading into the apartment hall to the bedrooms. A fire wall kept the blaze from spreading to an attached building.
The building, valued at $990,000, and its contents, valued at $48,000, sustained $480,000 and $18,000 in property damage, respectively. Alcohol intoxication was cited as a factor in the victim's death. One firefighter was injured.
Two dead in cooking fire
VIRGINIA — An early-morning fire blocked the primary escape route of a single-family home, killing two occupants and injuring another 11.
The single-story, wood-frame house had no smoke alarms or sprinklers. The family regularly used the kitchen door as their primary exit. The front door, located in a bedroom at the front of the house, was locked and never used.
Five boys ranging in age from 6 to 14 years occupied the front bedroom, and five girls, 2 to 10 years old, occupied a rear bedroom. Their 41-year-old father and their mother, also 41, shared a bedroom at the back with their 18-month-old son. All the occupants were asleep when the fire broke out.
After they discovered the fire, the family gathered in the girls' bedroom at the rear of the house, and the father went to investigate. When he saw that the fire was blocking the kitchen exit, he broke a window in the door and got eight of the children through it to safety.
Responding firefighters received a report of fire with people trapped at 2:03 a.m. When they arrived less than six minutes later, they found heavy fire showing on two sides of the house. Two police officers already on the scene had entered the house in search of more occupants, but smoke and heat had forced them back outside without finding anyone. After the officers stopped the bloodied and exhausted father from going back inside the building, he collapsed on the lawn.
Firefighters used two 1 3/4-inch hose lines to control the blaze, which had spread to the porch, and began searching for additional victims. They found the 18-month-old while still fighting the fire and a 4-year-old girl and a 2-year-old girl after they had knocked down the blaze in the kitchen.
During extinguishment, two bystanders told a firefighter that the children's mother was hurt and walking around a nearby neighborhood. The firefighter grabbed a medical bag and found her bloodied and in shock. She and the other injured members of the family were taken to the hospital.
Investigators discovered that the fire started when a pan full of food and oil was left cooking unattended on the electric stove. Burns patterns showed that the fire spread to the kitchen cabinets above the stove, then to other areas of the house. The lack of smoke alarms contributed to the fire's severity.
Damage to the home and its contents was estimated at $80,000.
Older adult dies in bedroom fire
MARYLAND — Firefighters discovered the body of a 74-year-old woman after they extinguished a fire in a bedroom of a second-floor apartment in a six-unit building. A smoke alarm alerted occupants of the floor below but not the victim, who died of smoke inhalation
The three-story, wood-frame apartment building had concrete block walls and a brick exterior. Hard-wired smoke alarms with battery backup had been installed, but the building was unsprinklered.
The downstairs occupant called 911 at 7:14 a.m. to report that she heard beeping and smelled smoke coming from an apartment on the second floor. Arriving firefighters saw nothing showing at the front of the building, but they did see light smoke coming from a second-floor window on the side of the structure. They entered the apartment and opened the bedroom door to find a small fire burning at the end of the bed. After they extinguished the flames and began clearing smoke, they found the victim's body on the bed.
Investigators found that the fire began in a plastic box containing clothing and cardboard. It spread to the bed and bedding, but it did not spread beyond the room of origin.
The value of the building and its contents was not reported, but damages were estimated at $7,000. The victim died of smoke inhalation injuries and burns.
Intentionally set fire kills two
TEXAS — Two people died in a fire that a 21-year-old man admitted to setting on a "whim" in the hallway of an apartment building.
The three-story, wood-frame apartment building, which measured 300 feet by 80 feet (91 meters by 24 meters), contained 170 units. It had a brick façade, and its roof was covered with asphalt shingles. Smoke alarms had been installed in each of the apartments, but the building was
The young man started the fire by igniting a piece of paper with a lighter and dropping it into a cardboard box on an overstuffed couch that had recently been put in the second-floor hallway. The couch ignited, and flames traveled quickly down the hall, trapping second- and third-floor occupants in their apartments.
The fire department received the first 911 call at 11:30 p.m. and responded to find people jumping from the second- and third-floor windows. A total of seven alarms was eventually struck, bringing 175 firefighters to the scene.
Two occupants, one a physically handicapped 41-year-old man, did not make it out of the building and died of exposure to heat and smoke. The other victim was a 55-year-old woman. One victim's body was found in the rubble after the fire; the fire department report did not say where the other was found.
The building, which was valued at $6.5 million, sustained $2.75 million in property damages. Damage to its
contents is estimated at $250,000.
Keyed door blocks escape
ILLINOIS — A fire that started in a basement bedroom of a single-family house killed a 70-year-old man and a 4-year-old boy as it spread to the home's upper floors. According to the fire department report, their escape was hampered by "a locked exit that [needed an] interlock key."
The two-story, wood-frame house measured 40 feet by 30 feet (12 meters by 9 meters) and had no smoke alarms or sprinklers.
A neighbor called 911 to report the fire at 1:00 a.m.
After the fire was extinguished, investigators determined that an open flame had been used to ignite the child's bed or bedding in the basement and that the flames and smoke had travelled up the stairwell as though it were a chimney.
Damage to the house, valued at $100,000, and its contents, valued at $10,000, were reported to be $20,000 and $6,000, respectively.
Cigarette starts fatal fire
WISCONSIN — Firefighters responding to reports of smoke in an eight-unit apartment building encountered smoke in the hallway and discovered a fire in one unit. They began searching the apartment and discovered the body of a 76-year-old woman in the kitchen.
Details of the building's size and construction were not reported. Nor was the presence of smoke detectors.
Investigators determined that the fire, reported at 4:53 a.m., began when the woman fell asleep while smoking in a chair. She awoke and tried to escape, but only made it as far as the kitchen before collapsing.
The building sustained approximately $25,000 in property damage.
Dryer fire kills two
NORTH CAROLINA — A fire that started in an electric dryer in the laundry room of a single-story, single-family house killed a bedridden 77-year-old woman and her 36-year-rold granddaughter.
The wood-frame house, which measured 46 feet by 30 feet (14 meters by 9 meters), had smoke alarms in the hallway and the den, which operated as designed. There were no sprinklers in the dwelling.
The younger woman discovered the fire around 1:00 p.m. when she got out of the shower and smelled smoke. After discovering that the dryer was on fire, she called 911 and tried to get her grandmother out the house by dragging her across the floor and into the hallway. When fire conditions worsened, she covered her grandmother with her body to protect her. Firefighters entering the house found the two women in the hallway. The younger woman was pronounced dead at the scene. Her grandmother was still alive but died of her injuries hours later.
Investigators determined that the dryer's electric heating element ignited the clothes in the unit. The dryer vent was on the windward side of the house, and winds of 28 miles (45 kilometers) per hour, gusting up to 35 miles (56 kilometers) per hour, swept the fire through the house. A window the young woman broke while trying to escape was also on the windward side of the house.
The house, which was valued at $100,000, and its contents, valued at $50,000, were destroyed.
Cigarette fire kills smoker, injures two others
CALIFORNIA — A paraplegic man dropped a cigarette on his clothing, unintentionally starting a fire that spread throughout his apartment and caused his death.
The two-story apartment building had four units on each floor. The unsprinklered building measured 80 feet by 24 feet (24 meters by 7 meters). Damage to the unit of origin prevented investigators from determining whether it had a smoke alarm, but all the other units in the building did.
The victim was smoking in the living room of his first-floor apartment when he inadvertently ignited his clothing. A neighbor called 911 at 6:13 p.m. to report the blaze.
When witnesses informed the first arriving fire officer that someone might be trapped in the apartment, he ordered additional resources to the scene. He and some police officers then helped evacuate the building's remaining occupants, as the first-due engine company deployed hose lines to fight the fire.
The fire damaged four units, and smoke and water damaged the other four. The building, valued at $1.2 million, and its contents, valued at $140,000, were a total loss. One civilian and a police officer suffered smoke inhalation injuries.
Firefighters extinguish fire in high-rise
OKLAHOMA — Two occupants of an apartment on the ninth floor of an 11-story apartment building unintentionally set fire to a sleep sofa when a large flame shot out of a cigarette lighter they were trying to repair. Frightened, they threw the lighter on the sofa, which ignited.
The steel-frame high-rise building, which contained 220 units, had concrete floors and brick-veneer exterior walls. The building had hardwired smoke detectors and a standpipe system, but there were no fire sprinklers.
The two occupants tried to extinguish the fire themselves instead of notifying the fire department. However, the building's smoke detection system activated and notified the occupants and the fire department at 10:03 a.m. Firefighters arrived within three minutes, and the first-due engine company established command. Additional crews set up lobby control, while others went to the upper floors, connected to the standpipe system, and extinguished the blaze.
The fire damaged the apartment of origin, and smoke damaged the adjacent units and hallway. Property damage to the building, valued at $1 million, is estimated at $10,000, while damage to its contents is estimated at $2,500.
Approximately 75 people were evacuated from the building. Ten of them suffered from smoke inhalation injuries, and four were taken to the hospital.
Woman dies after cigarette ignites couch
COLORADO — A 64-year-old man was burned trying to rescue his 63-year-old wife from their manufactured home when a fire started by a cigarette engulfed the structure.
The home, which was manufactured in 1968, was 60 feet by 12 feet (18 meters by 4 meters). It had wooden walls and a flat roof, both covered in metal. Smoke alarms had been installed in the kitchen and bedroom hallways.
The man had just returned home from getting coffee when he found the house on fire. He tried several times to get in through the front door, but the fire forced him back.
Firefighters arrived seven minutes after a passerby called 911 at 8:03 a.m. and found police officers caring for the injured man. They advanced a 1 3/4-inch hose line into the home through the front door and extinguished the fire, while other crews searching the structure found the fatally injured woman in a bedroom closet at the rear of the home. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her husband told investigators that when he left the house, his wife was smoking on the living room couch, and he advised her to go to sleep as she was dozing off. Supplemental oxygen was being used in the house, but the husband removed the oxygen concentrator from the front porch before firefighters arrived.
The house, valued at $7,000, and its contents, valued at $5,000, were destroyed. A dog also died in the fire.
Smoking with oxygen kills one
NORTH CAROLINA — An occupant of an elder-care facility died and several others suffered injuries from smoke inhalation during a fire that started when smoking materials ignited the victim's clothing while he was using medical oxygen equipment. Accounts differ as to whether the facility was a nursing home or a residential care facility.
The single-story, wood-frame building, which was 150 feet (46 meters) long and 60 feet (18 meters) wide, had brick exterior walls and an asphalt-shingled roof. The full-coverage fire detection system sent an alarm to the fire department. The building had no fire sprinklers.
The victim died as a result of a heart attack brought on by the fire. Damage to the building, valued at $1 million, was estimated at $250,000. Its contents sustained damages estimated at $75,000.
Incendiary fire at department store causes $2 million loss
WASHINGTON — Someone using an open-flame device intentionally set fire to a rack of women's clothing in a large department and grocery store before leaving the premises. Employees used portable fire extinguishers to control the blaze until the store was safely evacuated.
The one-story, steel-frame big box store covered an area of approximately 220,350 square feet (20,471 square meters) and had a steel-truss roof, concrete block walls, and a high ceiling. A central station alarm company monitored the store's fire detection system, which used beam detectors. The store also had a wet-pipe sprinkler system.
The fire in the display was set at approximately 9:00 p.m. A manager alerted to the fire went to the apparel department where he found someone using a fire extinguisher on the blaze. He told the individual to evacuate the premises and began using fire extinguishers himself. Later, he told investigators that the fire kept flaring up after appearing to be contained, so he kept using extinguishers on it until he was sure everyone was out of the building. In all, the building occupants used four extinguishers to control the blaze.
The fire alarm activated when smoke reached the ceiling, and the alarm company alerted the fire department. Firefighters used a water/foam extinguisher to put it out. The fire was never hot enough to activate the sprinklers.
Although the fire did not spread beyond the display rack, smoke caused an estimated $2 million in damage to the store's contents. There was no structural damage, and no one was injured. Investigators confirmed the sequence of events, but could not identify or locate the person who started the fire.