Man living in garage dies in fire
MINNESOTA — A 50-year-old man died of smoke inhalation and burns in a fire in a detached two-car garage in which a relative was letting him live.
The one-story, wood-frame garage, which measured 25 feet (8 meters) by 25 feet (8 meters), had wooden exterior walls covered in vinyl and a roof covered with asphalt shingles. A couch, a recliner, tables, a television, and a refrigerator had been set up inside, and electric power was supplied on its own circuit by the main house. The garage also contained a lawn mower, a snow blower, and two portable electric heaters that were not on at the time of the fire. In addition to the vehicle doors, the garage had a side door, but it may have been blocked.
The structure had no smoke alarms or sprinklers.
The fire department received a 911 call at 2:02 a.m., and firefighters arrived two minutes later to find the garage engulfed in flames. The roof and walls collapsed three minutes later. As crews fought to protect the exposures, someone told them that a man was living in the garage. They later found his body in an escaping position under debris near the side door. An autopsy revealed elevated carbon monoxide and alcohol levels in his blood.
Investigators determined that smoking materials ignited a couch and that the fire spread undetected until most of the contents were ablaze.
The fire destroyed the building, valued at $15,000, as well as its contents, valued at $10,000.
Combustibles on stove start fire
RHODE ISLAND — Construction workers renovating a tenth-floor apartment in an 11-story high-rise occupied by older adults unintentionally started a fire when they put a cardboard box filled with tiles on top of an electric stove and inadvertently turned the stove on.
The 11-story, steel-frame building, which was 93 feet (28 meters) long and 154 feet (47 meters) wide, had brick and masonry walls and a flat roof covered with tar and gravel. A fire detection system installed throughout the building included smoke detectors in the common hallways and local smoke alarms in each apartment. The system reported to a municipal radio master box connected to the fire department.
A combination wet- and dry-pipe sprinkler system also provided coverage in the apartments and hallways.
The fire department received the alarm at 9:45 a.m., and responding firefighters found smoke on the floor of origin. The fire, which did not create enough heat to activate the sprinklers, was small and easily contained, but it produced heavy smoke. Fire crews evacuated two floors of the building without incident, although one 60-year-old occupant complained of difficulty breathing.
The building, valued at nearly $12 million, sustained damage estimated at $7,000. Its contents sustained $3,000 in damage.
Fire destroys unoccupied house
VIRGINIA — The owners of a two-story, single-family house were out of town when a passerby noticed that their garage was on fire and called 911 at 10:08 p.m.
The wood-frame house, which had a wood truss roof and asphalt shingles, had no smoke detectors or sprinklers.
Firefighters were originally dispatched for an outside fire, but once they reached the scene about 25 minutes after the call, they saw that the blaze had spread to into the house. The house was located in an area with an inadequate public water supply, and firefighters were unable to make headway using their limited tank water. Once a tanker shuttle was established to supply master streams with water drafted from a remote site, fire crews brought the blaze under control. Eventually, however, the house collapsed into the basement.
Investigators discovered that the fire started near a freezer in the garage, but they were unable to determine its cause.
The house and its contents were destroyed. There were no injuries.
One child dies, two injured in house fire
MINNESOTA — A 4-year-old boy died and two other children suffered burns and smoke inhalation injuries in a house fire that started as a result of children playing with a lit candle.
The two-story, wood-frame farmhouse, which was over 100 years old, had a wooden plank roof covered in asphalt shingles. Smoke alarms had been installed, but they did not work. There were no sprinklers.
The boys’ father left his four sons, ages 4, 5, 14, and 15, home while he went to help their mother disconnect a trailer she was using to haul furniture to her retail store. The 15-year-old told investigators that he was doing schoolwork in the living room, where a scented candle was burning on a table that also contained artificial plants. He had stepped out of the room to make a phone call when he heard his younger brothers screaming.
He quickly ran into the room where he found the two little boys standing near the burning plant arrangement.
Grabbing the 5-year-old, he told his 4-year-old brother to follow him and yelled upstairs to tell his 14-year-old brother, who had been sleeping, to go out the window. Once outside, he put the little boy on the ground and tried unsuccessfully to go back inside for the 4-year-old. The 14-year-old managed to escape through a window and jumped off the porch roof to safety.
The children’s father called 911 at 10:19 a.m. after he found two of his sons running down the driveway when he returned from helping his wife. By the time the fire department arrived, the house was collapsing into the basement, and firefighters were unable to enter it.
After crews extinguished the fire, they found the body of the 4-year-old, who had died of smoke inhalation and burns. The 5- and 15-year-old also suffered burns and smoke inhalation.
The fire destroyed the house, which was valued at $154,000, and its contents, valued at $93,000.
Man dies in fire started when heater ignites blanket
NORTH CAROLINA — A 34-year-old man died of smoke inhalation when a fire that started in the middle of the night in a bedroom next to his spread into his room and throughout his side of a two-family house.
The one-story, wood-frame house, which was 40 feet (12 meters) long and 20 feet (6 meters) wide, had a wooden roof covered with asphalt shingles. There were no smoke alarms or sprinklers.
A neighbor reported the fire at 3:33 a.m., and arriving firefighters found the house heavily involved in fire. Investigators determined that the blaze began in the front-facing bedroom when a blanket placed too close to an operating electric heater ignited. The resulting fire spread to the attic, the front porch, and the remaining two rooms.
Damage to the building was estimated at $100,000, and damage to its contents at $25,000.
Man dies trying to extinguish house fire
CALIFORNIA — A man died in a fire that started when he left a pan of oil heating on the stove before going outside to talk to a friend. When the friend left, witnesses said, the victim saw smoke from the fire and ran back into the house, where he was overcome by heat and smoke.
The double-wide, wood-frame, manufactured home, which was 40 feet (12 meters) long and 24 feet (7 meters) wide, had wooden exterior walls and a lightweight truss roof covered in asphalt shingles over a steel frame. Neither smoke alarms nor sprinklers had been installed.
Someone called 911 at 5:31 p.m. Once firefighters extinguished the blaze, they found the victim in the living room, overcome by heat and smoke. Ambulance and fire personnel administered emergency medical treatment, but he died as a result of his injuries.
Investigators determined that the man had placed the pan of oil on the gas range and turned the control knob to high before he left the house. The oil overheated and ignited, and the fire spread from the kitchen throughout the house.
The fire did $150,000 in damage to the house and its contents.
One dead, one injured in home fire
VIRGINIA — A 47-year-old woman who was physically disabled died of smoke inhalation and her 8-year-old son was injured in a fire that began when a pot of food on the stove ignited and filled the home with smoke.
The fire occurred in the end unit of a two-story, wood-frame, townhouse-style apartment building that had wooden walls with a brick veneer and a roof covered with asphalt shingles. Firefighters found a battery-operated smoke alarm on the floor but did not hear it operating when they entered the home. There were no sprinklers.
The victim called 911 to report the fire at 5:37 p.m. and stayed on the line with the dispatcher, who advised her to get on the floor after learning she could not leave the apartment and hearing her cough due to smoky conditions. Firefighters who arrived seven minutes after the alarm found no visible smoke outside the front of the building. When they forced open the front door, however, they smelled smoke and saw hundreds of roaches trying to escape from the house.
The firefighters entered the structure, where they saw fire near the kitchen and heard the victim calling to them. Unable to see through the heavy smoke and hampered by trash, they worked their way toward the woman by calling out and listening for her replies. Eventually, they found her in the living room.
They removed her and used a hose line to extinguish the small fire in the kitchen. Once the smoke cleared, crews performed a secondary search and found the boy on the couch in the living room, still alive. They brought both victims to the hospital, where the mother was pronounced dead.
Investigators determined that the woman allowed her son to make macaroni and cheese on the stove. While cooking, he told his mother, who was in the living room, that it was spilling on the floor. When she asked what was spilling, he said “fire.” It appears that the food overheated and ignited, and that the resulting fire spread along the trash that covered the kitchen floor for an area of 6 square feet (0.5 square meters) around the stove.
The house, valued at $289,000, sustained just $1,000 in damage, as did its contents, valued at $12,000.
Sprinklers control smoking material fire in apartment
MICHIGAN — A woman who lived on the top floor of a three-story apartment building managed to evacuate her unit after discarded smoking material set fire to an upholstered chair.
The three-story building, which contained several apartments on each floor, had a wet-pipe sprinkler system throughout and a fire alarm system, including smoke detectors, which operated as designed.
The fire department received the fire alarm from the building and dispatched an engine and ladder company at 9:17 p.m. After additional calls from the alarm company told the dispatcher that multiple activations were coming from the building, a full assignment and additional resources were sent to the scene.
When the first-arriving company reached the building about five minutes after the alarm, firefighters saw smoke and water coming from a third-floor balcony. Inside the building, they found smoke in the third-floor corridor and saw the occupants evacuating. Crews entering the apartment of origin found that two sidewall sprinklers in the living room had already confined the fire to a leather recliner and a small area of carpet.
Officers spoke with the occupant, who initially said she had been cooking and that she thought the fire started in the kitchen. However, investigators determined that it started in the living room when smoking materials were dropped onto the chair. The woman then acknowledged that she had been smoking in the chair. Medical personnel confirmed that she was on a number of different medications at the time of the fire.
The apartment building, valued at $769,800, sustained damage estimated at $7,500. Its contents, valued at $300,000, sustained $2,000 worth of damage.
Sprinkler controls candle fire in college dorm room
MAINE — A sprinkler controlled a fire that started when a candle left burning unattended on a bureau in a college dorm room ignited other items on the bureau, including an aerosol can.
The three-story dormitory, which had 45 rooms, had masonry walls and a wooden roof with a built-up surface. A sprinkler system and an automatic fire alarm system with water flow and smoke detection protected the property. The fire alarm went to the college security office, which relayed the fire alarm to the fire department.
Firefighters responding to the 9:38 a.m. alarm arrived to find one sprinkler controlling the blaze and smoke on the floor of fire origin. Fire damage was limited to the room of origin, although there was some smoke damage in the building’s hallway.
Damage to the building was estimated at $2,000, and damage to its contents was estimated at $2,000.
Fire in manufactured home claims life of owner
CALIFORNIA — The 72-year-old occupant of a manufactured home died in a fire that started in a bedroom and quickly spread throughout the dwelling, eventually destroying it.
The single-story home, which was 28 feet (9 meters) wide and 60 feet (18 meters) long, had a metal roof and wooden walls. A battery-operated smoke alarm was found in the hallway without a battery. There were no sprinklers.
A passerby noticed the fire and called 911 at 6:10 a.m. After controlling the flames, responding firefighters found the victim lying on top of burned debris in the bathroom. The victim had a history of psychiatric issues and substance abuse, and the dwelling’s exits were blocked by the victim’s possessions.
Fire department investigators determined that the blaze started in a bedroom when an electrical cord damaged by poor housekeeping ignited either wooden wall paneling or the bed.
The home, valued at $20,000, and its contents, valued at $10,000, were destroyed. The victim was so badly burned that the pathologist could not determine the cause of death.
Laundry room fire forces nursing home evacuation
VIRGINIA — One hundred twenty patients and 30 staffers were forced to evacuate a nursing home when lint in a commercial clothes dryer ignited.
A wet-pipe sprinkler system had been installed in the single-story, steel-frame building, which had concrete block walls and a brick exterior. The nursing home was also equipped with commercial fire and smoke detectors.
A nursing home employee spotted the fire in the dryer in the laundry room and activated a manual pull station. The fire department received the alarm at 11:09 a.m. Because the fire, which did not produce enough heat to trigger sprinklers, was confined to the dryer drum, the crew’s primary concern was the smoke, which caused a taxing evacuation.
Investigators blamed the fire on a lack of maintenance, noting that it started when the dryer’s heating element ignited an accumulation of lint that had built up in the lint trap.
The fire caused $3,000 in damage to the building, which was valued at $1.2 million, and minor damage to its contents, valued at $800,000.
There were no injuries.
Sparks ignite combustible dust
OREGON — Two sprinklers controlled a fire in a baghouse of the dust collector and filtration system at a wood product manufacturing plant, limiting damage to the structure.
The single-story, steel-frame building, which measured 300 feet (91 meters) by 300 feet (91 meters), had metal walls and a metal web-bar joist roof covered by a metal deck. Although part of the building had a fire detection system designed to detect heat and sparks, the fire occurred in an area in which no detection had been installed. The property was also protected by a dry-pipe sprinkler system. Both the fire alarm and the water flow alarm were monitored by a central station alarm company.
The fire department received the alarm at 8:34 a.m., and firefighters arrived nine minutes later to find smoke coming from a baghouse in which large volumes of dust created in the facility were filtered from the air before the air was released back into the environment. They also saw flames through the baghouse’s explosion doors, which were open.
Investigators discovered that the fire started in the baghouse dust collection operation but could not determine the cause of the blaze. A witness described the fire as “rolling across the ceiling” as it spread into the adjacent building through the fresh air return system. Although sprinklers controlled the fire in the building, heat damaged the roof.
The fire did approximately $30,000 in damage. There were no injuries.
Sprinkler controls fire in manufacturing plant
MINNESOTA — A single sprinkler controlled a fire that started in the process area of an eyeglass manufacturing company until firefighters arrived to extinguish it.
The single-story building, which covered 25,888 square feet (2,405 square meters), had metal walls and a metal roof with a built-up surface. The plant, which was closed for the night, had sprinklers and an automatic fire detection system that were monitored by a central station alarm company.
A water flow alarm alerted the fire department at 8:36 p.m., and firefighters responded in three minutes. When they entered the building using keys from a key safe, they found smoke and immediately asked that a full assignment be sent to the scene. As an additional engine, ladder company, and battalion chief responded, the first-due engine crew investigated the water flow alarm and found a sprinkler operating in an area where lenses were tinted. They quickly completed extinguishment, while the additional engine company checked the area for fire extension and the ladder company ventilated the building.
Investigators found that the fire started on a lab table when an electrical problem caused an electric heating device used to tint lenses to fail. The fire reached temperatures of 1,200oF (649oC) before the sprinkler activated and limited the fire spread.
The building, valued at $341,000, sustained $5,000 in damage, and its contents sustained damage estimated at $2,500. There were no
injuries, and the facility was open the next day.
Sprinklers control intentionally set fires in discount store
TEXAS — A 33-year-old man was accused of using a water gun filled with lighter fluid to start seven separate fires in a discount store after telling store employees to leave the building before he “blew the place up.”
The store, which was located in a single-story strip mall with other retailers on either side, had concrete and brick walls and a metal roof with a built-up surface. It was protected by a NFPA 13-compliant, monitored wet-pipe sprinkler system and an NFPA 72-compliant fire alarm system.
The fire department was notified of the water flow alarm at 1:32 p.m., and firefighters arrived two minutes later to find smoke coming from the building and the suspect in police custody. When they entered the store, they found a few fires still burning, but six sprinklers had already brought the rest of them under control.
Investigators found that the man had set seven fires in the retail display area and two in a rear receiving area by spraying the lighter fluid and igniting it.
The building, valued at $3.3 million, sustained $70,000 in damage. The store’s contents, valued at $180,000, were destroyed by fire, smoke, and water. No one was injured.
Fire in backpack triggers bomb squad response
ARIZONA — Firefighters responding to a fire in a backpack that had been left in a fourth-floor office at a college building called the bomb squad when they saw wires leading from the backpack to an electrical outlet.
The six-story building, which contained classrooms, labs, and offices, was protected by a wet-pipe sprinkler system.
Firefighters responded to the fire alarm at 11:24 a.m. to find a single sprinkler operating over the fire. While crews extinguished the blaze, a lab employee told the incident commander that the backpack was his and that he had left his laptop in in it while he charged his new battery. Once building maintenance staff controlled the sprinkler flow, bomb technicians investigated and confirmed the employee’s account.
Investigators determined that the laptop overheated and ignited the backpack and its contents, as well as the chair on which it sat.
The building, valued at more than $5 million, sustained approximately $5,000 in damage. No one was injured.
Man dies while burning brush
TEXAS — An 81-year-old man died when he was caught in a fire that began after he ignited three piles of tree limbs and brush. At the time, it was 91oF (33oC), and winds were gusting from 15 to 34 miles (24 to 55 kilometers) per hour. Although the county allowed residents to burn outdoors with a permit, burning was not authorized on the day of the incident.
The fire department received the 911 call at 11 a.m., and firefighters responded to the rural area in 11 minutes, which is the normal response time. Initially, they had trouble finding the victim because he was so badly burned, but they eventually located his body about 6 feet (2 meters) from one of the brush piles.
Investigators determined that the man had set fire to the three piles of tree limbs and brush, which were in separate locations, with a propane torch. The strong prevailing winds caused the fire to ignite dry native grasses, and flames spread to two manufactured homes that were used for storage. Five acres (2 hectares) burned before firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze.
The two homes, valued at $30,000 each, were destroyed.