- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A woman escaped a St. Paul fire because she was small enough to fit through a basement window, but five dogs were not as lucky.

Fire crews arrived at about 10 a.m. Sunday and found a 22-year-old woman had escaped, Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard tells the Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/1l2yUkm ). Five Chihuahuas died but rescuers were able to resuscitate a sixth.

The basement where the woman was sleeping lacked a large enough window to meet fire code.

“She was nearly killed by this fire,” Zaccard said. “She was only able to get out because she was tiny, young and able-bodied enough. We nearly had our third fire fatality in St. Paul this year.”

The woman, who had just moved home after graduating college, was alone in the house when a smoke alarm woke her, Zaccard said.

St. Paul fire investigator Jamie Novak cited an improperly extinguished hookah, or water pipe, as the fire’s cause. The homeowner’s 17-year-old nephew had been smoking it before he left for church that morning, he said.

Investigators believe the hookah had tipped over, causing hot ashes to spark flames in the bathroom’s trash can and slowly spread.

The teen and at least three other people who live in the home were at church when the fire broke out, Zaccard said.

Though the fire was confined to the three-bedroom basement and was extinguished within a matter of minutes, the house sustained severe smoke and heat damage and is uninhabitable, Zaccard said.

Five people died in St. Paul fires last year, he said.


Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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