Careless Smoking Blamed for Fatal Fire in Everett, Washington

A 78-year-old grandmother was burned to death after she fell asleep with a lit cigarette in a recliner at her home, the city's second fatal fire this week, firefighters and relatives said.


EVERETT, Wash. (AP) -- A 78-year-old grandmother was burned to death after she fell asleep with a lit cigarette in a recliner at her home, the city's second fatal fire this week, firefighters and relatives said.

Pauline Potter, 78, was burned on 80 percent of her body by the time she was found early Thursday, said Jeff Potter, her grandson, who also lived at the house.

``(Wednesday) night was her night to sleep,'' the 20-year-old grandson said. ``She'd never fallen asleep smoking.''

The flames were out by the time firefighters arrived, Fire Marshal Warren Burns said.

Health problems often hampered Potter's ability to sleep, and she was sometimes awake for days on end, her grandson said. He added that she began sleeping in an easy chair rather than in bed after her husband died.

A mother of four, she shared her home with her daughter, grandson and his fiancee, all of whom were home when the fire stated.

Her grandson said his fiancee awakened shortly before 3:30 a.m., saw Potter on fire and awakened the others. He used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames, after which his grandmother was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she died.

Damage was confined to the living room and no one else was injured.

Four days earlier, Arthur Hopkins, 84, died in a fire at his junk-and debris-filled home after a space heater ignited nearby combustibles.