PALMER — An early-morning fire Monday near Willow destroyed a home and killed several pets, authorities say.
The fire on East Brokealine Drive in Caswell, just north of Willow, displaced five people and appeared to have started in the area of a live Christmas tree, according to Willow/Caswell Fire Department chief Rich Boothby. It killed the family’s pet lizards as well as three dogs and two birds. The home — a two-story cabin — was a total loss.
The mother was outside before 6 a.m. when her daughter ran out and told her smoke was filling the house and seemed to be coming from the area of the tree, Boothby said. She called 911 around 5:45 a.m., then called her adult son, who was already out getting water for the day with his younger brother.
Fire crews from Willow, Caswell and Talkeetna responded, with the first arriving about 10 minutes after the 911 call, he said. The woman told firefighters that after her daughter alerted her to the smoke, she saw a glow coming from the window nearest the tree and then the glass shattered.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Boothby said. The home didn’t appear to have smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. Red Cross of Alaska is putting up the family.
Christmas tree fires aren’t common but are more likely to be serious, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. On average, one of every 32 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death, compared to an average of one death per 143 total reported home fires.
Authorities recommend people with live and artificial trees check lights and extension cords to make sure they’re installed and used correctly. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors also should be tested to make sure batteries still work. The devices also have “end-of-life” dates that should be checked.