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HOUSE FIRE: Victim In Critical Condition

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A man is in critical condition at a hospital in Des Moines, suffering from smoke inhalation after a home where he was staying caught fire Wednesday.

Firefighters were called to 813 7th Street in West Des Moines just after 4:00 p.m. When rescue crews arrived they found two people outside who were injured.

Investigators think that what sparked this fire is part of a growing trend. The preliminary cause is that 26-year-old Michael Huckleberry was in the basement Wednesday afternoon and fell asleep while he was smoking a cigarette.

To confirm this, investigators still need to interview Huckleberry, but he is in critical condition at Mercy Hospital.

He was staying with a friend, 29-year-old Matthew Seagren, who lives at the home with his mother. Seagren was treated and released.

West Des Moines Fire Marshal Mike Whitsell says the basement was the worst place for Huckleberry to be.

“And when you have a ranch home like this, this home was constructed in the late 60’s according to the assessor’s page, you have masonry basement walls holds that heat inside,” said Whitsell.

The cigarette is not the official cause yet but if it turns out to be, Whitsell says it would continue a disturbing trend. He says fewer people are smoking nowadays but they are seeing more cigarette related fires this year.

Whitsell says people are putting out butts the wrong way in plastic containers on wooden balconies at apartment complexes. They’ve responded to small fires in back yards and back decks at people’s houses.

“And you also see them in parking lots of large office buildings where they can’t smoke inside.  They’re smoking them inside of their cars and then they’re flicking those cigarette butts out well up ‘til the rain yesterday we had dry conditions, we’ve had mulch fires at shopping centers and also at office complexes because of all the discarded cigarettes.”