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Elderly woman dies in Lone Jack house fire started by electric blankets

Posted: 6:56 PM, Jan 08, 2018
Updated: 2018-01-09 04:14:52Z

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Investigators believe electric blankets likely started a house fire that claimed the life of a 90-year-old woman last Friday.

Crews first responded to the fire around 7 p.m. on Friday at a home directly across the street from the fire station near West Main Street and North Bynum Road.

Surveillance video from the fire station that 41 Action News obtained showed flames shooting out from the home before the fire spread.

As of Monday night, investigators believed at least two electric blankets stacked on top of one another likely led to starting the fire.

The blaze was contained to one room but crews said smoke caused damage throughout the home and led to a total loss.

Investigators later identified the victim as 90-year-old Lucille West.

“She was quiet and kind of kept to herself,” explained Joey Rice, who lived next door to West. “She was always looking out for everybody around here and keeping an eye out for everybody." 

Rice’s home also suffered damage.

On Monday evening, Rice showed 41 Action News bubbles on the side of the home that he said formed because of the heat from the fire.

“The vinyl siding started to melt. It got hot enough,” he explained. “I see a space heater causing fires like that from falling over, but an electrical blanket?" 

News of West’s passing hit close to the hearts of firefighters.

West was known to crews across the street for her kindness and she often waived at them from her lawn.

“She was our neighbor. I've known her since I've worked here,” explained Lone Jack Fire Protection District Chief David Kelsey. “She was just somebody that was always watching out for us. She'll be missed. It’s a very sad circumstance. It's like losing a close friend." 

After four decades of working in emergency response, Kelsey told 41 Action News that Friday’s deadly fire was the first one caused by an electric blanket he had ever responded to.

“To have a full structure fire caused by one, to me it's a first in my career,” he explained. “I wouldn’t leave them (electric blankets) unattended. Don't leave them on when you're not home."

Chief Kelsey said investigators believed the electric blankets were likely on West’s bed when the fire started.

Fire investigators also later determined that West did not have any working smoke detectors inside her home at the time of the fire.

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Tune into 41 Action News at 10 p.m. for Tom Dempsey's full report and check back in this story.