State fire officials say an electrical malfunction in a can opener sparked a fire that killed a rural Shenandoah woman Sunday. State fire investigator, John Ticer, says the fire originated under a cupboard can opener in the kitchen area. Ticer says the cord of the can opener was likely loose where it matches up with the switch and the led to a short.
Ticer says it’s unknown why 65-year-old Karen Beecher was unable to escape the burning house after reporting the fire shortly before 1:30 Sunday morning. Firefighters found Beecher in a southeast bedroom. Ticer says there was heavy smoke throughout the house, although the fire was mostly contained in the kitchen. He says firefighters reported it was extremely hot, and they don’t know if that heat kept Beecher from getting through the hall past the kitchen.
An autopsy determined Beecher died of smoke inhalation. Ticer also questions whether Beecher had ample warning of the fire, as there were no working smoke alarms in the house. He says the fire had been burning for quite some time before Beecher called 9-1-1, and he says by the time she called, she was not able to get out of the home. The fatal fire occurred at the end of Daylight Savings Time–when fire officials remind people to change the batteries in smoke detectors.
Ticer says this is the time of year to check the batteries and make sure they are working properly. He says to be sure to have a smoke detector on every level of the home and be sure they are positioned to give you adequate warning to get our of your home if it is one fire. Ticer says Beecher’s death adds to what is a record pace for fire fatalities. Forty people have died in fires in the state this year compared with 46 in all of 2008.
Contributed by Mike Peterson, KMA, Shenandoah