A fire that tore through a home early Monday in the Caswell area, leaving a family’s pets dead, has firefighters asking people to monitor their live Christmas trees after the blaze reportedly started near one.

Willow Caswell Fire Chief Rich Boothby said the blaze, at a two-story home on East Brokealine Drive, was reported just before 6 a.m. Monday.

“The folks had woken up this morning; they had smelled smoke pretty bad, it was filling their cabin,” Boothby said. “The daughter went downstairs and saw smoke coming from the area of the Christmas tree.”

Boothby said the daughter left the “dry” unplumbed home to alert her mother, who was using an outhouse nearby, as well as three boys who were filling water bottles at a well.

“The mom ran back toward the house,” Boothby said. “She could see the glow in the window and the window broke out.”

Firefighters arrived in five to 10 minutes, Boothby said. Nobody else was inside the home or injured, but the family’s pets – three dogs, two birds and some lizards – were all killed. The residence itself was a total loss.

“They had fire throughout the inside of the structure,” Boothby said. “The whole second floor of the structure had caved in onto the first.”

Firefighters haven’t determined a formal cause for the fire, according to Boothby, since other possible ignition sources like a laptop computer were on hand.

“There were a lot of things that it could have been, but what the daughter described (was) smoke coming from around the Christmas tree,” Boothby said.

In the meantime, the Red Cross of Alaska is helping all five people displaced by the fire. Fire crews are asking that people ensure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning this season, and be aware of Christmas trees’ flammability and keep them well-watered.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, Christmas tree fires are roughly four times deadlier than other U.S. residential fires, with one of every 34 resulting in a death versus one of every 142 non-tree-related fires.

A video posted online by the National Institute of Standards and Technology demonstrates how much faster a dry Christmas tree can burn than a watered one.


Monday’s fire was the Willow Caswell department's first this month potentially linked to a Christmas tree, according to Boothby.

“This is the first one this season that we’ve had,” he said.

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