DATE/TIME: 121699/0615PST
RELEASE: 99-192


A 50-year-old Las Vegas woman is lucky to be alive this morning after fire destroyed the inside of her home early Thursday morning. She suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns on her hands trying to escape the burning inferno. Two pet dogs, a German Shepherd and a Pit Bull did not make it out of the house. The cause of the fire has been ruled accidental, the result of careless smoking.

Las Vegas Firefighters were called to 4823 Vermont Avenue (Bonanza & Decatur) at 3:18AM, this morning. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they found flames coming out all the windows of a 1-story wood frame house and the fire was beginning to start a neighbor's house at 517 Yale St. also on fire. Firefighters found the occupant of the house sitting in a pickup truck in front of the house suffering from 2/3rd degree burns to her hands, a small burn on her face, her hair singed and smoke inhalation. She was immediately transported by Fire Ambulance to University Medical Center. It took firefighters about 15 minutes to bring the fire under control, but not before it destroyed the inside of the house and most of the woman's belongings. Damage was estimated at $70,000. The neighbor's house on Yale St. suffered minor damage to the side of the house and a broken window, but the people will be able to stay in their home.

The occupant of the house told Fire Investigators at UMC that she woke to the sound of the smoke detector activated in the hallway and found the bedroom full of black smoke. She then called 9-1-1 to report the fire and dispatchers told her to leave the house immediately. She crawled down the smoke filled hallway into the living room, the place where Fire Investigators believe the fire started. The front door was blocked by fire, so she crawled to a rear patio/sliding glass door. When she put her hands on the glass door to open it, she said the glass was so hot, she burned her hands. But at that point she said the fire was so intense, she believed she would die there so she forced the door open sustaining the burns on her hands. She then went to a neighbor's house and banged on the front door for help. The neighbor found her at the front door and the two of them moved the woman's pickup truck from the driveway to a field across the street. The woman stayed in the truck until firefighters arrived on the scene.

Firefighters found the house fully involved, making their first priority to keep the fire from spreading to the neighboring homes. The fire was blowing out the rear patio door, where the woman escaped, putting flames on the house next door. Firefighters were able to quickly douse those flames and begin putting the fire out in the house on fire.

A large German Shepherd and a small Pit Bull were found dead in the house, at different locations. It appeared the fire was so intense they could not escape. All of walls in the house were covered with black soot; most everything in the house was destroyed.

After talking to the woman at UMC, Fire Investigators believe the fire is the result of careless smoking. The woman told Investigators she believed that a cigarette started the fire. She also told them she dumped her ashtrays into a waste container before going to bed. The fire has been ruled accidental. The woman told Fire Investigators she was asleep when the fire started, that it was the smoke detector in the hallway that woke her. At that point, smoke had already filled her bedroom. The melted smoke detector, that saved her life, was found lying on the hallway floor-melted.