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Home destroyed when toddler plays with lighter

POSTED: March 9, 2008 5:02 a.m.

A child playing with a cigarette lighter accidentally set a house on fire Wednesday morning, leaving a Gainesville family homeless.

Gainesville Fire Marshal Jerome Yarbrough said when firefighters arrived on the scene in the Willow Ridge subdivision at about 11:20 a.m., “the house was already 50 to 60 percent involved.”

Making matters worse, the wind was gusting at 25 to 30 miles per hour as a cold front moved through the area.

“With the winds we were having today, it didn’t take long to finish off the house,” said Yarbrough. “Those gusts accelerated the flames.”

He said the 1,400-square-foot house, a rental property, was a total loss, with damages estimated at $130,000.

Yarbrough said the fire started in the rear bedroom of the home.

“A mother and her 2-year-old child were the only occupants at that time,” he said. “The mother was in the kitchen when she heard a smoke detector. She came into the room and found the bed and curtains on fire. She said that the child had been playing with a cigarette lighter.”

No one was injured in the fire. Yarbrough said the Red Cross was called in to provide emergency housing for the family.

While Yarbrough said it was fortunate that the home had a working smoke detector, he said the incident demonstrates how important it is to keep lighters away from children.

“This is a toddler who doesn’t know any better,” he said. “Kids that age perceive that type of item as a toy.”



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