Careless Smoking Blamed for Las Vegas' First 2007 Fire Death

Investigators believe a fire that took the life of a middle-aged Las Vegas woman was accidental in nature. The cause of the fire is believed to be the result of careless smoking. No one else was injured from the fire.

Fire dispatchers received a call from a U.S. Postal Letter carrier on Jan. 11, about 2:15 p.m. requesting firefighters check on the welfare of a woman who lived at the Mar-A-Lago Condominium complex, 3151 Soft Breezes Drive (Cheyenne/Buffalo). The postal employee was concerned because the woman did not get her mail from the mailbox for several days. He went to her condo unit and knocked on the door. He then noticed very slight smoke stains around the front door and decided to call firefighters who arrived a few minutes later.

Firefighters had to force entry into the upstairs condo unit. When they opened the door, they found a lounge chair in the living room destroyed by fire and the walls covered with black soot and smoke. As they searched the condo, they found the occupant lying on the floor in a rear bedroom.

Investigators from Las Vegas Fire & Rescue and Metro Homicide detectives worked the investigation together and believe the fire occurred sometime over the past weekend. They believe the woman was smoking and possibly fell asleep in the lounge chair which caught fire and woke her. She probably found the condo unit full of thick smoke, lost her way in the unit and passed out in the bedroom. It appeared she was overcome by smoke and died sometime over the weekend.

Fire investigators believe the fire was the result of careless smoking. Smoking material was found all around the condo and at the source. The victim might have fallen asleep while watching TV, it was still on as well as lights throughout the unit when firefighters entered the unit.

Fires in cushioned chairs, sofas and mattresses burn slowly and produce a thick, chocking smoke. It appeared the fire smothered itself out because of the smoke, only the chair, a small table and carpeting was damaged. There was also smoke damage on the walls. Damage was estimated at $5000. No other condo units in the two-story wood frame/stucco condo building with 12 units were damaged. There was no evidence of a fire in the unit from the outside. Some neighbors who walked by the unit after the incident said they were unaware that there had been a fire in the building. It was not clear whether smoke alarms operated during the fire. They were not sounding when firefighters entered the unit.

The incident remains under investigation pending the results of an autopsy which will be performed by the Clark County Coroner's Office to determine the exact cause of death. It appeared to investigators the victim died of smoke investigation.

This is the first fire fatality in the city this year, last year there were three fire fatalities. Careless smoking is the leading cause of fatal fires in the United States, especially between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. The incident remains under investigation.