April 20, 1998

Local News

Blaze a sad reminder to keep fire from young children


Andrew Walgamott/staff photo

A family portrait inside a charred frame survived a fire at a Bothell home last week while other pictures weren't so lucky.

     by Andrew Walgamott
   Staff reporter

   BOTHELL--A house fire that displaced a family of six and destroyed most of their belongings last week served as a sad reminder that sources of fire should be kept out of reach of small children. According to Bothell Fire and EMS officials, three four year-old children playing with a candle caused a fire that heavily damaged half of a single-story duplex near Kenmore. Angie Jones and her five children who lived in the fire-charred portion of the structure are now being put up by the Red Cross in Kirkland. They lost almost everything, according to Jones' sister, Sheila Bruce. "She has no idea what she's going to do a week from now," Bruce said.
   Fire officials estimated the fire caused $100,000 in damage to the structure which is in the 24300 block of Meridian Ave. South. A recently erected sheetrock wall saved the other half of the house from anything more than smoke damage. The fire apparently began when a three-year-old child took a fragrant candle from its holder, ran into a bedroom and threw the burning candle onto a bed. The fire spread quickly from there. Bruce, who lives in the undamaged portion of the house with her fiancee and baby, estimated that within 60 seconds the blaze had gone from the bedroom, down the hall and into the living room.
   Arriving fire crews found a thick wall of smoke. One Bothell firefighter suffered from smoke inhalation before he was able to put his breathing apparatus on. The fast-moving fire burned a home-made bunk bed to the ground, blackened several family photos on the living room wall, singed clothing and bedding and melted stacks of video tapes before crews from four districts were able to bring it under control.
   Last Thursday afternoon, the cleanup was still going on. Scorched couches and clothing sat in the driveway before going to the dump. Jones was washing what clothing could be salvaged. If there was a lesson in this, it was that children shouldn't have access to fire. "Never leave a lit candle in a room unsupervised," Bothell Fire spokesperson Cathleen Wiggins advised. Younger children don't understand that a single flame can blaze out of control within minutes, Wiggins said.
   Besides the fireman, two others were injured as indirect results of the blaze and were transported to Evergreen Hospital for evaluation, she said. Jones suffered a seizure when she came home, and a 17-year-old female who was babysitting the kids experienced soreness and a puncture wound to her jaw after she fainted on the road.
   Wiggins said parents with kids who have an interest in fire have several options. "Take the time to teach kids how to use it constructively," she advised, adding that the fire department offered resources as well. "All King and Snohomish County fire departments subscribe to the Fire Setter intervention program. All parents have to do is call us before they have to call 911," Wiggins said.
   Bruce, who said there were plans to rebuild, noted ironically, "You can burn a Duraflame log for two hours but an entire house can burn down in 20 minutes."
   Fire officials say curiosity with fire can begin as early as age three and last until age six or seven. They say that kids cause over 100,000 fires a year in the United States that result in major property damage or injuries. Often fires are set with matches and lighters left within children's reach. "As parents we should be cognizant of things we leave in their path," Wiggins said.