A West Richland man is lucky to be alive after his house caught fire early Monday, fire officials said.
The single-story home at 5300 Blue Jay Court went up in flames about 3:30 a.m. from a blaze that appeared to have started in the kitchen, said Capt. Ed Dunbar of Benton Fire District 4.
The smoke detectors had been disabled, but somehow the resident was woken up by the smoke, giving him time to escape, Dunbar told the Herald.
"This fire had potential for being a high fatal fire," he said. "Somebody was looking out for him."
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The resident also attempted to fight the fire and suffered a minor burn on his hand before leaving the house and waiting for firefighters to arrive, Dunbar said.
No one else was in the home.
"Flames were coming out of the house on three sides when I arrived," Dunbar said, adding that 30 firefighters from Benton fire districts 2 and 4 and Richland responded to the scene. "It was a quick knock down, but we were there until 6 a.m. making sure all the hot spots were out."
Keith Berry, who lives about a half-block down the road, had just gotten home from work and was in the garage checking his wife's car after she said it smelled like something was burning.
"I hear this thud and crackle sound, and I ran outside and smoke was just rolling down the street," Berry told the Herald. "I took off running down the street."
Berry said he saw three cars in the garage and was worried that somebody still was inside the house, but as he got closer, a neighbor said the homeowner was in her house and nobody else was inside.
"At first when I ran up the hill, I was a little nervous about what action to take," Berry said. "All I had in my mind was to kick in the front door."
Berry said he called 911 as he ran from his home.
"I'd never seen anything like that before. It was like a flame thrower shooting out the window," he said. "It was pretty intense."
The fire remains under investigation, but Capt. Dunbar said it appears to be accidental.
The home sustained significant damage and likely will be a total loss, he said. The house, built in 1992, is owned by Kevin Bell, according to the Benton County's Assessor Office.
Dunbar said Monday's fire is a reminder for people to make sure they have working smoke detectors in their homes and to remember to test or change the batteries twice a year. Smoke detectors more than 10 years old also need to be replaced, he said.
And, Dunbar added, people should never try to fight a fire themselves. The best thing to do is immediately leave the house and leave the work to trained firefighters.
"If you find fire in the house, get out," he said. "You do have the risk of being overcome by the smoke or getting injured."
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org