Discarded cigarette caused Shelton fire

The fire that badly damaged a High Plains Road house on Friday morning was caused by a discarded cigarette, according to Shelton Fire Marshal James Tortora.

“We determined that the occupant discarded a cigarette into a flower pot with mulch prior to leaving the house that morning,” Tortora said.

The flower pot was located on the rear outdoor deck, where some neighbors have said the fire appeared to start. The homeowner left the home around 8:30 or 9 a.m. on May 3, and the call for fire assistance came in at 10:19.

Tortora said the mulch in the flower pot ignited from the cigarette, which spread to the deck and then to the house.

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Process of elimination

As the city’s fire marshal, Tortora oversees investigations into what causes fires, among other responsibilities.

With the fire at 9 High Plains Road, the investigation began by eliminating other possible causes. Investigators looked through the damage, studied the burn patterns, and factored in statements from witnesses and occupants.

The Shelton fire marshal’s office now will complete a report for the homeowner’s insurance company.

Dog died of smoke inhalation

No people were inside the house at the time of the fire, but the family dog did perish in the blaze. Tortora said the cause of death for the pet was smoke inhalation.

A husband, wife and their three children live in the house. It is no longer habitable, and it’s uncertain if it will be demolished or repaired.

Demolish or renovate?

The damage appears to be heavy from the outside, but Tortora said structural damage to the first and second interior floors was somewhat limited. The attic and roof were essentially destroyed.

Tortora said it will be up the insurance company whether to knock down the structure and rebuild, or do a complete renovation. Both the insurance company and homeowner could bring in adjusters to make that determination.

He said the insurance company also would be expected to conduct its own investigation into the cause of the fire.

Use bucket with water for butts

Tortora said it’s important for people to remember to put out cigarettes properly, “especially at this time of the year when it’s dry.”

If outdoors, people should use a metal bucket that is filled with water and has nothing flammable inside it. “And don’t leave the bucket next to the house,” Tortora said.