In his most recent "Firewatch" column in NFPA Journal®, author Ken Trembay details nearly 20 fire incidents from across the United States, including this blaze from Iowa.
Woman dies in electrical fire
IOWA—A 42-year-old woman died of smoke inhalation in her single-family home when she became trapped in her living room by an electrical fire.
The two-story, wood-frame home, which was 48 feet (15 meters) long and 38 feet (12 meters) wide, had balloon frame construction with several wall voids leading from the basement to the top floor. The house had no smoke alarms or sprinklers.
The fire department received a 911 call at 3:49 a.m., and firefighters responded within three minutes to find the house involved in flames. Crews used several hose lines to knock down the fire, but they were unable to rescue the trapped woman, whose body was eventually located in the living room.
The victim’s mother told investigators that she had been wakened by her daughter shouting that she smelled smoke. The mother got out of bed and saw her daughter standing in the living room but did not see any smoke. Just as the victim asked whether she should call 911, however, the room erupted in flames, trapping her. The mother managed to escape unharmed.
Investigators found several portable electric space heaters in the house, which only had a 60-amp service. The overloaded electrical circuits apparently ignited the house’s wooden structural framing and burned in the voids for quite an extended period before breaching the interior walls and spreading into the house.
The fire destroyed the home and its contents, together valued at $85,000.
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