Child playing with lighter starts fire

T Ocean City-Wright firefighter is slightly injured in blaze that guts interior of rental house.

By JEFF AYRES Daily News Staff Writer

A fire raced through a Wright home Tuesday morning after firefighters said a young boy got hold of an unattended cigarette lighter.

Four-year-old Jose Rodriguez, his 20-year-old mother, Kristen L. Brown, and two other children, Alejandro Media, 1, and Juan Rodriguez, 6, were all able to escape unharmed from their home but not before the inside was totaled by smoke and flames.

A firefighter suffered minor burns when a portion of the home’s ceiling collapsed, sending heated debris onto the back of his neck, said Ocean City-Wright Deputy Fire Chief Randy Brown.

Lt. Terry Kline was treated and released from Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Jose was toying with a cigarette lighter in a bedroom at 5 Bradford St. at about 8:30 a.m. when a set of curtains ignited, Brown said. The flames spread quickly through the woodframe home, but the family was able to escape.

Firefighters from Ocean City-Wright and Fort Walton Beach arrived to find heavy smoke streaming from inside and flames shooting from the front door.

While they were able to keep the home’s exterior from collapsing, the inside is believed to be a total loss, Brown said.

He said the family, which was renting the home, will be staying with relatives for the time being. The home is insured through its owner, who lives in Bagdad, firefighters said.

Children playing with matches or cigarette lighters is a common cause of fires, but Brown said his department has responded to fewer of such blazes during the past few years.

He credits "constant education of children and adults" in helping to reduce such fires.

But he added that Tuesday’s fire is a reminder of how important it is for parents to keep lighters, matches and other flammable devices out of their children’s reach.