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September 22, 2014

Anniston woman dies after Friday house fire

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Posted: Monday, August 11, 2014 4:56 pm | Updated: 11:47 am, Thu Aug 14, 2014.

An Anniston woman died Sunday morning after being injured in a house fire Friday.

Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown said Bobbie West, 77, was pronounced dead at 7:02 a.m. Saturday morning at UAB Hospital in Birmingham.

Brown said his report was not final as of Monday morning, but he said he believes West died from smoke inhalation and thermal burns. Thermal burns include injuries caused by extreme heat.

Anniston firefighters at 2:18 p.m. Friday responded to the fire at West’s home on the corner of Walnut Avenue and 18th street.

West was found in a bedroom, where investigators believe the fire started, said Anniston fire Chief Tony Taylor.

“We believe the fire was accidental,” Taylor said, but he added that the investigation, with assistance from the state Fire Marshal's Office, has not been completed.

Taylor said the fire started in the bedroom and quickly spread into the attic.

West’s death was the 68th fire-related fatality in Alabama since January, Taylor said.  

Assistant Fire Marshall Scott Pilgreen  declined to comment on West’s death because the investigation was ongoing Monday, but he pointed to a spike this year in the number of such deaths. Pilgreen said 81 people died from fires in Alabama last year. With four months remaining this year, Alabama is on track to break last year’s number of fire-related deaths.

The spike in the number of deaths has prompted the state Fire Chiefs Association to start a fire prevention campaign called “Pay Attention to Fire Prevention,” Pilgreen said.

Accidental fires are often preventable, Pilgreen explained. Space heaters should never be placed near combustibles, and electric heaters and other devices should not be used with overloaded extension cords or power strips, Pilgreen said. Cooking fires often happen when people leave stoves unattended, he said.

“It comes down to decisions that we make, that if we don’t give proper thought to those decisions, then sometimes it bites us,” Pilgreen said.

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