Fire Marshal Kathy Clay said a damaged outdoor extension cord probably caused an East Jackson house to become engulfed in flames last week.
“It’s easy to damage the inside of an extension cord without even knowing it,” Clay said.
Flames were shooting from the side of the East Deloney house at 3:30 a.m. on April 10 with one resident asleep inside.
Jackson police Sgt. Garrett Kellams arrived first and rushed inside the burning home when no one answered the door.
He’s being hailed as a hero.
“We all train to react like that, but it doesn’t happen too often,” Clay said.
Smoke detectors were not sounding inside the home, but at least two neighbors saw the flames and called 911.
“That’s a little disturbing,” Clay said. “There was quite a lot of smoke and no smoke alarms going off.”
The two tenants (who refused to be interviewed for this article) were renting the house and are now searching for a new place to live.
“It’s the landlord’s responsibility that smoke detectors are there, but it’s the renter’s responsibility to make sure they work,” Clay said.
Only one of the residents was home during the fire.
Kellams found him sleeping in his bedroom and rushed him out before the fire moved from the living room area to his bedroom.
About 25% of the rental house sustained heavy fire damage, and the main floor has smoke damage, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Battalion Chief Mike Moyer said.
When crews returned to investigate the source of the fire, they found evidence under the deck.
“It was clearly an exterior fire that started on the front deck,” Clay said. “We cut away the planks and dug through the char and in the black popped out a round ball of copper. The only way that can be there is from the extension cord. There was no other electric on the deck.”
There was copper wire on the base of the steps, Clay said, and the insulation was burnt off.
Clay examined the outdoor car extension cord and could tell it had been damaged.
“In those cords there are wires that are all twisted together,” she said. “The blue was coming from the back and wrapping to the front. It was obvious the extension cord had been damaged.”
Clay said it was unlikely the fire would have ignited if the house had ground fault circuit interrupter outlets.
“This is a great reminder to examine your extension outlets,” Clay said.
The owner of the home has insurance, Clay said, but only one of the residents had rental insurance.
Jackson Hole Fire/EMS recommends checking your smoke detectors twice a year, when Daylight Saving Time begins and ends.