Investigators have determined the cause of a fire last week in Cedar Rapids that killed an elderly man in his home. Greg Buelow is spokesperson for the Cedar Rapids Fire Department.
“The fire was caused by discarded smoking materials that ignited either blankets, pillows or the mattress cover in the bed,” Buelow said. The July 16 fire started in a bedroom of the home at 3631 Western Pine Drive NE.
Eighty-one-year-old Ronald Gillen died in the fire. His wife, 76-year-old Daphne Gillen, suffered smoke inhalation and burns to her hands and feet. She has since been released from the hospital. Buelow notes most fires leading to injury or death are caused by smoking materials or unattended cooking fires because people are more likely to be in their home at the time.
“So, if they fall asleep or forget about the cigarette or discard it improperly, that person is probably still in the house. An electrical fire could happen at any time, whether someone’s at home or not,” Buelow said.
Gillen’s death marks the second fire fatality of the year in Cedar Rapids. There were zero fire-related deaths in Iowa’s second largest city during all of last year.
“We never want to use a tragedy to add further pain to anybody, but the (Gillen) family realizes too that we do have an obligation to tell others about the importance of properly discarding smoking materials with a large, deep ash tray,” Buelow said.
The Gillen home did have a working smoke detector, but Buelow said Ronald required assistance to move himself. Daphne tried, but could not move her husband. She was helped out of the house by a neighbor who noticed the fire.