De Queen Fire Department personnel were called out to a home on fire at 125 E. Harvey Drive, Wednesday, Jan. 9, at around 3:38 p.m. Firefighters arrived four minutes later and found smoke pouring out from both the eaves and windows. After they had made entry and were inside, it was reported that someone was in the house. At the same time, a 20-year-old man had opened a bedroom window and crawled out.
“A minute, a minute-and-a-half later, he wouldn’t have made it, the smoke was so bad” said Fire Chief Dennis Pruitt.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze, which had begun near a bed. Pruitt said he spoke to a 6-year-old child, one of three at the home, asking him if they had been playing with matches on the bed.
“He looked at me all teary eyed and said it was a lighter and they had lit a towel on fire,” Pruitt said, noting that the children had found the lighter behind the TV.
While no one in the home smoked, the lighter had been used to light leaves, which was how the kids learned to use it.
Pruitt said he was thankful no one had been hurt but he laid responsibility on the parents, who he said needed to put lighters and other harmful products high up on shelves where small children can’t get to them. He said that the De Queen Fire Department holds programs at the local schools where they teach children of the dangers of fires and playing with lighters, but still it’s the parents in the home that have to take precautions in order to avoid a tragedy. He invited parents to bring their children to the fire department where they can see the trucks and talk with firefighters to learn about fire safety.
“It all worked out but in the end," Pruitt said. "I don’t think the kids will play with fire again. This is what happens and you need to talk to your kids.”
One bedroom in the home was heavily damaged and the rest of the house suffered heavy smoke damage. Firefighters stayed on the scene until almost 5 p.m. Pruitt said that the four minute response time of the department was a factor in the fire not turning into a deadly tragedy.
“A four minute response time makes a difference,” he said. “A fire like that, a minute or two makes all the difference in the world.”