What happened to this Richmond family should be a wakeup call for everyone

Posted at 7:34 PM, Nov 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-13 19:34:37-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- As many folks fire up their heaters, heat pumps and furnaces for the first time this autumn, it is a good time to check your home for fire hazards.

In fact, Richmond fire officials said electrical issues are one of the leading causes of house fires.

You can avoid it during this cold snap by checking faulty appliances, overloaded outlets, exposed wires and unattended space heaters.

CBS 6 News spoke with one family who lost their home to a fire because of cigarette ashes.


Leon Warlington Jr. is still shocked by the devastation as he returned to his charred townhouse on Briel Street that is now reduced to rubble.

"It's hard to relive this. But thank God we're alive," Warlington said. "It was painful to watch, but I have to realize that accidents do happen."

Warlington said cigarette ashes are to blame for East End home going up in flames.

CBS 6 News looked into the number of times firefighters were called to a scene from Oct. 1 to Nov. 12.

In the City of RIchmond, firefighters responded to 84 fires this year compared to 77 in 2013.

In Chesterfield, firefighters showed up to 28 fires, which is slightly higher than the 24 last year.

But when the temperature drops, Richmond fire officials said electrical issues is the leading cause of fires during the cold weather season.

Lt. Christopher Armstrong showed the danger of how leaving food on the stove and using it to heat your home can do.

"You never want to open it up because when you open up an oven with fire inside," Armstrong said. "It has the potential for coming out with all of the gases."


Another fire hazard is faulty appliances, overloaded outlets and exposed wires.

"Exposed wiring can create a spark based on where it is on a hardwood floor or on a carpet," Armstrong said.

That's because Armstrong said they easily ignite. And you should never leave a space heater unattended.

"They need to be three inches away from a bed or window to prevent a fire," Armstrong said.

Armstrong said you should make sure the space heater has an emergency cut off in case it tips over. And homeowners should always get a yearly chimney sweep to prevent a fire and the spread of carbon monoxide.