December is the deadliest month for house fires in California, and this month is proving no exception.
Early Wednesday morning, an elderly Citrus Heights woman died after a fire engulfed her home in the 7200 block of Sunrise Boulevard. The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District said the blaze started near the furnace. Investigators have not ruled out the furnace as the cause.
It was the second fatal fire in the Sacramento area in two days. On Tuesday, two children died in an early morning house fire in Sacramento’s Meadowview neighborhood. The cause of the Meadowview fire remains under investigation.
Capt. Michelle Eidam, Metro Fire spokeswoman, said house fires increase in the colder months. Common causes include unattended candles, poorly operating home heating systems and toppled space heaters.
Twenty-nine Sacramento County residents died from accidental exposure to smoke or fire between 2009 and 2013 – about six deaths per year, according to figures from the California Department of Public Health. Statewide, roughly 800 California residents died from fire or smoke during that period – about 160 deaths per year. December was the worst month for fire deaths; about one of every seven California fire deaths occurred during December.
“The most common days for candle fires are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day,” Eidam said. “We want people to make sure candles are blown out, that ashes are cooled before transferring them from the fireplace to outdoors and that space heaters are not near anything combustible.”
On Wednesday, Metro Fire firefighters fought the house fire before bringing it under control around 5:30 a.m. Crews then searched for two hours in the charred Citrus Heights home for a second person before concluding that the woman was alone.
She was found dead in a bedroom, along with her cat and her dog.
The Citrus Heights Police Department closed southbound Sunrise Boulevard at Oak Avenue while firefighters battled the structure fire. All lanes reopened shortly before noon.
The residence sits about 30 yards off Sunrise Boulevard some distance from other homes. Motorists on the busy boulevard can barely see the home behind a chain-link fence and overgrown bushes and trees. The house was destroyed, but firefighters prevented flames from spreading to overhanging trees and a nearby outbuilding.
Joseph Kovill, who owns property to the north of the burned home, said that the daughter of the woman who resided in the house had told him she was concerned about her mother.
“She came by two or three weeks ago and told me she was worried about her mother,” said Kovill. “She told me to keep an eye out for her mother.”