Rescued man's cigarette blamed for Champaign fire

CHAMPAIGN — A burning cigarette that sparked a couch fire was to blame for an apartment fire last week in Champaign.

Champaign fire investigator John Koller said the resident of the third-floor apartment at 1510 Grandview Drive,  just east of Hessel Park, had been smoking Thursday night when he fell asleep about 8:30 p.m. with an ashtray on the arm of the couch.

He awoke to see smoke in the living room and got down the hallway to a bedroom where he was able to call 911. Firefighters were dispatched at 8:47 p.m.

"At that point, he felt he couldn't get out on his own. Our dispatch advised him what to do to keep safe," Koller said, adding that the suggestions include to close the door, put something under it and get near a window if you're on an upper floor and can't get out.

"When we got there, he was semiconscious. He was able to yell. They picked him up and carried him out," Koller said.

The resident, whom he estimated to be around 30, was taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and released. He was not burned.

Koller said the resident was very lucky and that the incident illustrates some principal fire safety tips: always have an escape route planned and never smoke or put food on the stove or in the oven if you're sleepy.

"A fire doubles in size every minute. It happens quick. That's why we start teaching this stuff in kindergarten," Koller said.

He estimated damage to the apartment at $5,000.

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