Four die in house fire
NEW JERSEY — A 13-year-old girl, a 47-year-old woman, and an 86-year-old woman died in an early-morning fire in their single-family home. A 57-year-old man made it out of the house, but died shortly afterward of a heart attack.
The two-and-a-half-story, wood-frame house, which was 40 feet (12 meters) long and 25 feet (8 meters) wide, was unsprinklered, and its only single-station smoke alarm, located in the basement, did not operate during the fire.
An occupant of the home discovered the blaze and called 911 at 2:42 a.m. Firefighters arriving within two minutes tried several times to enter the house to search for the occupants, who were reported to have been trapped, but the fire’s intensity drove them out. When an engine crew member fell partway through the first floor into the burning basement, the incident commander ordered everyone from the building. Once the fire was darkened down, crews entered the second floor and found the three victims.
Investigators determined that the fire started in the first-floor living room, but did not release any information on its cause.
The house, valued at $340,000, was a total loss. One firefighter suffered burns to his face.
Three children die in smoldering fire
OHIO — Three children died and their mother was injured in an early-morning fire that began when she dropped a cigarette on the couch in their first-floor apartment.
The three-bedroom, garden-style apartment was one of 12 in a two-story, wood-frame apartment building with an asphalt-covered roof. Two smoke alarms were located in the hallway near the bedrooms and in the bedrooms themselves, but investigators found that the hardwired alarms in the hallway had been disconnected and that the backup batteries had been installed backwards.
A passerby discovered the fire and called the fire department at 1:13 a.m. A police officer who arrived at the scene before the firefighters reported heavy fire coming from a first-floor window. He entered the unit and moved the burning couch from the living room to the lawn.
Firefighters arrived at 1:21 a.m. During their primary search of the smoke-filled apartment, they found three of the four victims unconscious. Another crew found the fourth victim, a child, and all four victims were taken to the hospital, where the three children died of smoke inhalation. They were 3, 5, and 7 years old.
The children’s mother told investigators that she had smoked some cigarettes and had a beer on the couch earlier that night. She fell asleep there but woke around 11:30 p.m. and went to her bedroom, where she went back to sleep. Awakened later by a smoke alarm, she found her daughter in the hallway and brought her to the master bedroom, where she tried unsuccessfully to open the window. Failing that, she tried to extinguish the fire by throwing water on the couch. When that too failed, she brought one son into her room and tried to find the other boy. She remembered nothing after that.
Fire damage was limited to the room of origin, though smoke filled the apartment. Damage to the apartment and its contents was estimated at $10,000 and $3,000, respectively. Investigators determined that the fire smoldered until the window self-vented.
Fire on porch spreads into home
PENNSYLVANIA — An early-evening fire spread into a single-family dwelling from a rear deck, heavily damaging the home. The alarm was delayed while the occupant initially tried to control the fire himself and hung up on 911 operators several times before finally making his report at 6:36 p.m.
The two-story, wood-frame house, which was 60 feet (18 meters) long and 38 feet (12 meters) wide, had engineered wood floor joists, wooden roof trusses, and an asphalt-shingled roof. Hardwired smoke alarms with battery backup were located on each floor and near the bedrooms, as required by local code. There were no sprinklers.
The fire started near a propane-gas-fired grill on the rear deck, which consisted of composite decking on a wood frame. Eventually, the fire spread into the house.
Ironically, a one-hour-rated wall assembly separating the garage from the house prevented significant loss to the garage. The house, valued at $909,000, and its contents, valued at $200,000, were destroyed.
Alcohol a factor in death
TEXAS — A 58-year-old man died of smoke inhalation in a house fire that investigators believe was caused by a discarded cigarette.
The one-story, wood-frame, single-family home, built on a concrete slab foundation, had a brick veneer and an asphalt-shingled roof. Firefighters found a battery-operated smoke alarm on the wall in the hallway, but it had no battery. There were no sprinklers.
A neighbor who smelled smoke called 911 at 11:05 p.m., and the single engine the fire department sent to investigate called for a full first-alarm assignment. Responding firefighters, who forced the front door after seeing fire venting from the rear of the home, discovered that the fire was confined to the living room and extinguished it before it spread any further. They discovered the victim during a primary search and took him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Investigators determined that a discarded cigarette started the fire in an upholstered chair. Near the chair, they discovered several coffee cans holding cigarette butts, as well as several alcohol containers. Alcohol was a contributing factor in the victim’s death.
The house and its contents, together valued at $85,000, sustained damage estimated at $75,000.
One dead, one injured in smoking-related fire
ARIZONA — A 30-year-old woman died when fire blocked the exit from her single-story manufactured home, but she managed to save her 7-year-old son by dropping him out a window before she was overcome by smoke.
The 1970s-era, wood-frame manufactured home, which was 65 feet (20 meters) long and 14 feet (4 meters) wide, had metal siding and a metal roof. Two battery-operated smoke alarms had been installed, one near a laundry and hallway and the other in the living room. Neither was heard during the fire.
The 7-year-old noticed smoke coming into his room around 10:30 a.m. and discovered the fire in another bedroom at the opposite end of the home. He woke his mother, who was asleep in the living room, and they both returned to his room as the fire blocked the front door. The mother broke the window in the boy’s bedroom and lowered him to the ground as the fire filled the bedroom. The boy, who suffered minor lacerations when he went through the window, ran to a neighbor’s home, and they called 911.
Investigators believe that smoking materials ignited the blaze.
The home and its contents, valued at $25,000, were destroyed.
Unattended cooking fire damages apartment building
WASHINGTON — An apartment fire that began when a burner was unintentionally left on under a pan of French fries and cooking oil caused considerable damage to the rest of the building.
Each apartment in the 32-unit, wood-frame building, which measured 180 feet (55 meters) by 35 feet (11 meters), had single-station, battery-operated smoke alarms in the bedrooms and hallways. There were no sprinklers.
The fire department received a 911 call from a passerby reporting a fire in the building, and arriving firefighters found smoke and flames coming from a first-floor apartment balcony. They initially thought that the fire was simply a balcony fire, and delayed calling for additional resources. The blaze eventually spread to every floor of the building and burned the roof off in places before firefighters could control it.
Investigators determined that the blaze began in the apartment’s kitchen and spread to the living room, where an open sliding door provided fresh air and a place to vent. Flames then traveled along the exterior of the building throughout the upper floors.
The building’s local smoke alarms did not work, but someone used a manual pull station to alert the occupants, all of whom managed to evacuate the building.
Valued at $1.9 million, the property and its contents sustained losses estimated at $1.1 million. There were no injuries.
Ashtray tip-over leads to deadly fire
ALABAMA — A makeshift ashtray tipped over as two women played with a dog, and its contents ignited a sofa in a living room, heavily damaging the interior of their single-family home. One of the women managed to escape by climbing out a window, but the other sought refuge in a bedroom, where she succumbed to smoke-related injuries.
The one-story, wood-frame house was 60 feet (18 meters) long and 28 feet (9 meters) wide. It had a smoke alarm, but firefighters later discovered that the alarm had no battery. There were no sprinklers.
The two women, who had been drinking and smoking, were playing with a dog in the living room when a makeshift metal ashtray tipped over and spilled its contents on the floor. One of the women cleaned up the contents, then went to the bathroom. Unfortunately, she overlooked some of the spilled smoking materials, and they ignited the sofa. Several minutes later, she heard her companion scream and was almost overcome with heat and smoke herself, as the fire had grown rapidly. She broke the bathroom window and escaped through it with the help of a neighbor.
Firefighters responding to a neighbor’s 911 call arrived around 5:30 a.m. and entered the house, where they quickly found the other woman, unconscious, in a bedroom. They brought her out through the bedroom window, but the 39-year-old victim died of smoke inhalation. Two dogs also died in the fire.
The building, valued at $40,000, and its contents, valued at $10,000, were nearly destroyed.
Mattress fire wasn’t really out
ALABAMA — A man who worked during the evening and slept during the day dropped a cigarette while smoking in bed. When he saw that his old, cotton-lined mattress was on fire, he poured a glass of water on it. Thinking he had extinguished the fire, he left for work. However, the fire continued to smolder until it reached open flame.
The one-story, single-family, wood-frame house, which was 50 feet (15 meters) long and 35 feet (11 meters) wide, had no smoke alarms or sprinklers. The fire was discovered by a neighbor, who called 911 at 4:15 p.m. Firefighters arrived four minutes later and put out the blaze with a single hoseline.
The fire, which consumed the mattress and box spring, significantly damaged the contents of his bedroom and spread smoke throughout the house.
The home, valued at $150,000, sustained $10,000 in property damage. Its contents, valued at $10,000, sustained a $5,000 loss.
Candle ignites fire, killing one
GEORGIA—A candle used to illuminate a first-floor closet in a two-story house ignited its contents, starting a fire that spread to the second floor, where it trapped and killed a 12-year-old boy.
The first floor of the wood-frame, single-family house covered an area of 2,200 square feet (204 square meters). Smoke alarms had been installed near the bedrooms, but investigators could not determine whether they had operated. There were no sprinklers.
The fire started around 5:00 p.m. when the victim’s sister checked on a litter of puppies that had recently been born in the closet of the first-floor master bedroom. Unable to see the puppies, the girl lit a candle and inadvertently ignited the clothing inside. She left the room to find a fire extinguisher, and by the time she returned, she was unable to extinguish it. The girl ran next door to call the fire department. She did not realize her brother was home at the time.
The fire department received the call at 5:11 p.m., and firefighters arrived about seven minutes later to find heavy smoke and fire showing. Firefighters who entered the structure encountered fire spreading from the master bedroom.
As additional companies arrived to support the first-due engine company, the firefighters stretched hose lines to the upper floor, where they found the boy in a second-floor bedroom. They brought him outside but he died of smoke inhalation.
The house, valued at $170,000, sustained losses estimated at $50,000. Damage to its contents is estimated at $45,000. The status of the puppies was not reported.
Sprinkler extinguishes fire in hotel room
CALIFORNIA — A single sprinkler extinguished a fire in a hotel room that began when the guest unintentionally ignited his bedding with a lighter or cigarette.
The 2-story, 63-room, wood-frame hotel, which measured 80 by 100 feet (23 by 30 meters), had hardwired smoke alarms with battery backup in the guest rooms. The building was protected throughout by an automatic sprinkler system.
Firefighters were called to the scene at 8:38 p.m by a 911 call from the hotel and by the off-site alarm monitoring facility. They stretched hoselines to the room of fire origin but found they did not need them for suppression. Smoke was ventilated and the activated sprinkler was replaced.
According to investigators, bedding was ignited unintentionally with a lighter or smoking materials. The room’s occupant tried to extinguish the fire but was unsuccessful and left the room. One sprinkler activated and extinguished the fire.
The building, valued at $3 million, sustained $3,000 in property damage and a $2,000 loss of contents. There were no injuries.
Sprinkler extinguishes intentionally set fire
MISSOURI — A residential sprinkler extinguished a fire that was set intentionally in an apartment building laundry room, limiting the loss to approximately $5,000.
The 18-unit apartment building was 3 stories high, 150 feet (46 meters) long, and 50 feet (15 meters) wide. It had a brick exterior, and asphalt shingles covered its roof. A wet-pipe residential sprinkler system provided coverage in the building’s living spaces, as did hardwired smoke alarms with battery back-up. Both systems were monitored by a central station alarm company.
When firefighters arrived within five minutes of the 8:56 a.m. alarm, a single sprinkler had already extinguished the fire.
Investigators determined that someone had used a lighter to ignite paper, plastic, and lighter fluid in a basement laundry room trashcan. Heat from the fire activated a sprinkler above the fire, causing a water flow and sounding the alarm. The suspect who allegedly started the fire had been accused previously of vandalizing the laundry room, setting a dumpster on fire, and pulling a fire alarm on the second floor.
Despite the alarms, several residents, including one whose apartment was adjacent to the laundry room, slept through the whole event. An investigator noted that “although this was a small fire and quickly extinguished by the sprinkler system, it could have ended with several fatalities and much more damage than was done.”
Sprinklers control fire in dorm
IDAHO — Two sprinklers controlled a fire in a dorm room that began when a microwave sitting on a cooktop ignited.
The two-story, wood-and-concrete-block building had a steel-frame roof and a built-up roof surface. The sprinklers had been installed in the building about four years earlier. The cooktop had not been working for some time, but somehow it became operational and ignited the microwave.
Firefighters responded to a waterflow alarm at 10:44 a.m. and found sprinklers controlling a small fire in the dorm room’s kitchen. The fire had spread from the microwave to the cabinets above the stove before the sprinklers operated.
The building, valued at $2,900,000, and its contents, valued at $250,000, sustained damages of $5,200 and $800, respectively. There were no injuries.
Sprinkler extinguishes fire in hotel
PENNSYLVANIA — A single sprinkler extinguished an intentionally set fire on the fifth floor of an occupied hotel. The multistory hotel was protected throughout by an automatic sprinkler system.
Firefighters responded to the 8:10 p.m. alarm and arrived two minutes later to find no smoke or fire visible from the exterior of the building. After speaking to the staff, who reported smoke and water conditions of the fifth floor, the incident commander deployed two aerial ladder trucks on two sides of the building. As engine companies established a water supply and fed the building’s fire department connection, an engine and ladder company sent to the upper floors reported water flowing from the fourth floor.
When firefighters arrived on the fifth floor, they found a single sprinkler activated in a maintenance closet in the service elevator lobby. After searching the upper floors and finding only light smoke above the fire floor, firefighters shut down the sprinkler system on the fifth floor until a new sprinkler could be installed and the system restored.
Investigators determined that someone had intentionally ignited a piece of rolled carpet that had been stored in the closet. The carpet had burned until the sprinkler activated and extinguished the fire.
The hotel, valued at nearly $4 million, sustained losses estimated at $5,000. There were no injuries.
Propane explosion ignites home and kills two
NEBRASKA — A 68-year-old woman and a 66-year-old man died in their single-family home when leaking propane filled the house and ignited with explosive force when one of them turned on a propane-fired heater.
The single-story, wood-frame dwelling, which was 30 feet (9 meters) wide and 50 feet (15 meters) long, had no smoke or fire suppression equipment.
A passerby heard the explosion and saw the fire and reported the incident at 5:30 a.m. Investigators determined that a propane distributor had recently filled the home’s tank and lit the pilot for the upcoming heating season. When the occupants awoke and turned on the furnace to take the chill out of the house, the home exploded and burned. Investigators found a small leak in the copper tube.
The house, valued at $75,000, and its contents, valued at $50,000, were destroyed.
Firefighters extinguish blaze in hair salon
FLORIDA — A passerby called 911 at 3:00 a.m. to report a fire in a hair salon in a single-story strip mall.
The mall was constructed of concrete block walls over a concrete slab with a steel bar joist roof covered by a metal deck and built-up roof covering.
The building had no sprinklers, and investigators could not determine whether it had any smoke detection equipment.
Firefighters arriving six minutes after receiving the alarm found that the salon’s front windows had failed and that fire was rolling from the salon.
Initiating a blitz attack with the deck gun from the engine, fire crews knocked the fire down and entered the salon with a 2 1/2-inch hoseline to extinguish the remaining flames.
Additional crews were sent into the businesses on either side of the salon to make sure the fire had not spread.
Investigators determined that someone started the fire intentionally by pouring flammable liquids in several locations and igniting them using an undetermined heat source.
The building, valued at $350,000, sustained losses of $70,000; its contents sustained a $25,000 loss. One firefighter suffered minor injuries.