Authorities in Cedar Rapids say a three-year-old boy started a townhouse fire Thursday that sent his one-year-old sister to the hospital. Cedar Rapids Fire Department spokesperson Greg Buelow says the fire started in an upstairs bedroom.
“It was obviously started with either a lighter or matches by a three-year-old,” Buelow said. “The one-year-old was still in the room and had to be rescued by firefighters.”
The kids’ grandmother, 47-year-old Lesia Funchess, was in the first floor living room when the fire started at 4:30 p.m. She and a neighbor tried to extinguish the fire and rescue the one-year-old but could reach her. The baby remains hospitalized with what were initially reported as “life threatening” injuries.
“Typically due to medical privacy, we are not able to release any information, Buelow said. “However, the family wanted to let the public know that her condition is improving.” Firefighters, wearing oxygen tanks, crawled through flames and smoke to rescue the baby. Buelow says the incident should serve as a reminder to parents and guardians about the importance of talking to kids about the dangers associated with matches and lighters.
In addition, Buelow is encouraging Iowans to make sure they have working smoke detectors in their home and replace the batteries at least once a year. He says smoke alarms can reduce a person’s risk of dying in a fire by 50%. “Smoke will not wake you up, it’ll put you in a deeper state of unconsciousness. So, you need some time of early warning device so you can get yourself and your family out of the house,” Buelow said. Investigators say the smoke alarms in the townhouse were not working because they did not contain batteries.