Fire Marshal: Cigarette to blame for accidental fire at Kilgore apartment

Fire Marshal: Cigarette to blame for accidental fire at Kilgore apartment

KILGORE, TX (KLTV) - A fire that caused significant damage to a Kilgore apartment complex Friday was likely sparked by a burning cigarette butt inside a plastic ashtray tube.

Kilgore Fire Marshal Brandon Bigos said the fire started out on a tenant's balcony, where she told authorities she smoked the night before around 1 a.m. Bigos said it appeared as though the tenant put her cigarette butt into a plastic tube that typically has sand or kitty litter in it. Bigos believes the burning cigarette butt likely didn't reach the bottom. 

READ MORE: Two injured jumping from second story to escape fire

"We learned two lessons here: Be careful when wind is up. And second: always try to dispose of ashes, whether it's barbecue or an ashtray, or anything like that, in a metal can with a lid," Bigos said. "It will keep the wind from getting down in there, and if it catches fire, it remains in a metal can."

Neighbors told firefighters they tried extinguishing the flames, but Bigos said the wind was a factor in the fire spreading so quickly.

Around 5 a.m. a man, living in building 2, was heading to work when he noticed the fire. He went back into his residence and got a fire extinguisher to try and put the fire out but it didn't work. He called 911 and started banging on residents doors to try and wake them up. 

Bigos said two people were hurt after they jumped from the second-story of the building to escape the flames; one of those tenants suffered a broken ankle. Both were hospitalized, but Bigos could not comment on their condition except that their injuries were non-life-threatening.

The apartment building was ruled a total loss. Bigos said at least one of the units was destroyed, several others received significant damage.

"There's a lesson to be learned in it," Bigos said. "It just took this one time."

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