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Cigarette blamed for East Anchorage fire

By Heather Hintze 6:55 PM June 12, 2014

Firefighters’ quick response prevented a home on Bolin Street from going up in flames Thursday afternoon.

Residents of New Hope, a transitional house for women, showed up to find the damage wasn’t as bad as they had initially thought.

“My heart was pounding,” said Andraya La Fleur, the residential manager of the home. “I was trying to get some answers whether it was a small kitchen fire or our whole house was engulfed.”

The Anchorage Fire Department said the preliminary cause of the fire appeared to be a cigarette butt left in a planter.

Anchorage firefighters have responded to more than a dozen cigarette-caused fires in just the past few months. They said it can be extremely dangerous to put cigarettes out in planters or trash cans because they become smoldering time bombs.

“It can be hours later when it ignites the actual container and work its way from the outside of the house into the house,” explained Captain Danny Costanios. “The problem with that is all your smoke detectors are inside of your house so a lot of times the fire has progressed really heavily and is pretty advanced.”

La Fleur said New Hope will look into who was responsible for leaving the butt there.

“I know a lot of fires get started that way and that’s why we don’t even allow cigarettes on the property so it’s unfortunate consequences when you break the rules,” she said.

The building has an automated alarm system that alerted firefighters. Costanios said residents are fortunate firefighters were alerted early and the fire didn’t start in the middle of the night.

The Red Cross is working with the women to find temporary housing until exposed wiring in the home can be fixed. La Fleur said she’s just counting her blessings there’s a home to come back to.

“We’ll make it through this. We’ve made it through a lot worse.” she said.

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