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Candle destroys half of South Kitsap dwelling

A South Kitsap woman was left homeless last week after an unattended candle sparked a fire in her living room.

According to Fire District 7 officials, the woman — a Maple Avenue resident — left the candle flaming on a bookshelf in preparation for a potential power outage Monday night.

“She said she heard the wind blowing during the night,” said fire district spokeswoman Lisa Kirkemo.

The wind didn’t knock the power out, however, and the candle was left burning all night.

Shortly before dawn, it apparently ignited some flammable material on the shelf and started a massive blaze.

The woman said she smelled the fire while it was still contained to the living room and escaped safely to a neighbor’s house.

When the fire crews responded around 5:45 a.m., approximately half the one-story home was in flames.

Kirkemo said the firefighters reported hearing no alarm bells when they arrived, indicating the house did not have working smoke detectors.

“This woman was extremely lucky if she did not have a working smoke alarm,” Kirkemo said.

The fire crews were able to extinguish the fire within 15 minutes, but not before flames had badly damaged more than 50 percent of the dwelling.

The portion of the house not damaged by flame nonetheless sustained heavy smoke damage. Total property loss was estimated at $30,000.

Firefighters were able to salvage more than half of the woman’s belongings, limiting content loss to approximately $15,000. Although no formal surveys have yet been done, Kirkemo said the fire crews believe the home is salvageable, although not immediately inhabitable.

Since 2000, Fire District 7 has responded to 20 fires started by candles — 17 that resulted in significant property loss. The district reminds residents never to leave candles burning unattended and to use flashlights — not candles or lanterns — during power outages.

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