On Tuesday, December 27 at 6:37 am, the Burlington Fire Department responded to a 9-1-1 call for a fire in a residence at 110 Caroline Street. The first engine company arrived on scene within three minutes and met with the occupants of the residence and a construction worker who was the first witness to the fire, at the front door.
The first-due engine company encountered heavy smoke and fire issuing from the enclosed back porch of the residence. Firefighters stretched a hose line to the rear porch of the single-family wood-framed structure and extinguished the fire within four minutes after arrival. After opening the ceiling of the adjacent kitchen to check for fire extension, crews noted that fire had not extended through the walls into the residence. Due to the high intensity of heat and flashover conditions on the rear porch, the fire began to burn through the exterior door leading from the porch to the kitchen prior to extinguishment. 16 firefighters worked for approximately one-half hour to completely extinguish this fire and perform overhaul operations. As this fire occurred at shift change, extra personnel responded on each apparatus beyond the typical 12 -14 firefighters.
During the course of this fire investigation, it became apparent that an occupant attempted to extinguish the fire with pots filled with kitchen faucet water, but decided to evacuate the structure prior to opening the kitchen door leading to the porch. If the occupant had opened the kitchen door, a serious tragedy may have occurred, as the occupant would have been immediately overcome by heavy fire and superheated smoke from the porch.
Total fire loss is estimated at $50,000 (property) and $5,000 (contents), and was limited to the exterior rear porch and interior kitchen walls. Estimated property value is $334,500 and contents are valued at an estimated $100,000. No firefighters or civilians were injured during this incident. This property is owned by Daniel DeVan of Massachusetts, and was rented to a family of four at the time of the fire. The building was insured by the property owner, but the occupants did not have renter’s insurance at the time of the fire.
The Burlington Fire Marshal’s Office investigated this fire and determined the cause to be accidental in nature – careless disposal of hot fireplace ash in a paper bag on the rear porch wood steps. This fire smoldered overnight after the ashes were placed on the back porch at approximately 6:00 pm on Monday, December 26.
The public is reminded that hot ashes from a fireplace or woodstove should only be disposed of in a metal container with a lid that is able to be secured. The container should be stored outside of the structure and clear of all combustible materials. All homes should also have functioning and properly placed photoelectric smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in place on each floor and near each sleeping area to notify occupants in the event of a fire. In this case, smoke detectors did not initially activate until the house windows inside the porch failed due to high heat, as all smoke and fire was initially confined to the exterior rear porch. The Fire Marshal’s Office would also like to emphasize that the only correct actions to take in the event of a fire in an occupied structure is to immediately evacuate the structure and report the fire by calling 9-1-1.