Fire kills 3-year-old Fairbanks boy

Posted: Wednesday, July 18, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A 3-year-old boy died in a fire that burned through the second story of an apartment complex west of Fairbanks on Tuesday night.

Passing motorists, neighbors and an Alaska State Trooper tried to save Cameron Lee Gray but were turned back by smoke.

The state fire marshal's office said Wednesday the fire may have been caused by a butane cigarette lighter. The fire originated in the child's bedroom.

The boy's mother and two other children escaped the fire without injury.

Trooper Sgt. Dave Drvenkar said the mother, Deven Gray, 23, was downstairs in the two-story, three-bedroom apartment with her 5-year-old son and 2-month-old baby when she heard her Cameron screaming upstairs.

''She ran upstairs and opened the bedroom door and heard what she described as a large vacuum and a gust of wind and then flames erupted,'' Drvenkar said.

Gray ran downstairs, called 911 and ran outside yelling for help.

Motorist Stan Moore was driving home from work when he saw smoke billowing from the upstairs window of the apartment. Moore called 911 on his cell phone and pulled into the parking lot.

Moore asked the mother where the child was located and, along with a several other people, tried to go upstairs to save the child. He made it to the door of the child's bedroom but had to retreat because of smoke and flames.

''I made it to the door frame and that was it,'' Moore said, his eyes red from the smoke. ''You couldn't see.''

Would-be rescuers tried to use flashlights to see through the smoke but it was futile, said Charles Scott, another passing motorist.

''It was too hot to go into the room,'' Scott said, watching as firefighters tried to douse the fire as it moved through the roof. ''It was fully engulfed. It was too much.''

Drvenkar, the first emergency responder on the scene, also made an attempt to reach the child but was turned back by ''intense, searing heat and smoke,'' he said.

''There was no way to survive up there without protective gear,'' Drvenkar said.

Flames were shooting from the bedroom window by the time firefighters from the University Fire Department arrived on scene just four minutes after the fire was reported at 6:52 p.m., said Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Edie Curry.

Firefighters used chain saws and axes to cut into the roof of the apartment to fight the blaze. Firefighters were able to contain the fire mainly to the one apartment but did not have a damage estimate.

Residents in the five other apartments in the six-plex were displaced by the fire because the building was without power following the blaze.

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