A structure fire Christmas morning took a life and destroyed a home.
El Dorado County Fire responded to a call of a residential fire on 2831 Bryan Way just outside the Placerville city limits off of Baker Road at about 5 a.m. Dec. 25, Battalion Chief Mike Pott said. Engine 25 and Medic 25 from the Placerville station were first to arrive and reported the structure was fully involved.
Bystanders immediately told the firefighters that there was still one person in the residence. Crews entered the burning building with a hose line in an attempt to rescue the person. However, the roof began to collapse on the crews and they were forced to pull out of the residence. The firefighters did not sustain any injuries, Pott said. A 67-year-old male victim was later found deceased in a bedroom. The identity was not available pending positive identification.
The victim’s wife and teenage son were able to escape the residence on their hands and knees, Pott said. The teenage son reported the fire from a neighbor’s house.
The cause of the fire is undetermined, but investigators were able to determine it started in the living room. Two possible causes, electrical and unattended burning candles, could not be ruled out, Pott said. The investigation revealed the home did not have working smoke detectors. The wife and son were alerted to danger when they heard their cats “howling,” Pott said. “By then the home was full of thick choking smoke and the fire was beginning to grow rapidly. If there had been working smoke alarms in the home there would have been a potential for a different outcome.”
Pott also pointed out that burning candles should not be left unattended.
“The National Fire Protection Association reported between 2006 and 2010 that U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 11,640 home structure fires that were started by candles. These fires caused 126 deaths, 953 injuries and $438 million in direct property damage,” Pott said. “Candles caused 3 percent of reported home fires, 5 percent of home fire deaths, 7 percent of home fire injuries and 6 percent of the direct property damage from home fires in 2010.”
A bit more than one-third of home candle fires started in bedrooms, Pott cited, and caused 42 percent of deaths and 45 percent of injuries in those fires. He also noted that, on average, 35 fires from candles were reported per day between 2006 and 2010, with falling asleep a factor in 11 percent of candle-related fires. December sees 11 percent of fires from candles compared to 4 percent the rest of the year, he said.
Three fire engines, one medic unit and one battalion chief from El Dorado County Fire Protection District responded to the fire, along with one fire engine from Diamond Springs Fire Protection District.