A family pet perished in a Ketchikan house fire that authorities believe was started by an unattended candle. No one else was home at the time when the blaze broke out Wednesday night.

The fire started at a single family home on Millar Street. The fire department received a call shortly after 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Ketchikan fire marshal Andrea Buchanan says when crews arrived smoke was visible, and the fire was smoldering.

“It had everything that it needed. It had the heat. It had the fuel. But due to the construction of the house and the windows and doors being closed, the fire was able to eliminate the oxygen that was available within the structure which kept the fire at a manageable level for the fire fighters when they came in.”

The family of five that lived there had been away running errands. They had their dogs with them, but two cats were left home. Buchanan says the cause of the fire was a burning candle left unattended.

“The belief is that the cat was able to hit the candle off a center island and it landed on the couch and set the couch on fire.”

Buchanan says one cat was found dead in the home. The second feline was not found by the time crews finished mopping up at about 10:30 p.m., but Buchanan believes it likely did not survive. 

Buchanan says, nationally, 23 candle fires are reported daily. She says the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve. Buchanan says while candles are part of home décor and celebrations they should be attended to while at home, and extinguished before leaving the house.

“…especially when we have pets. Pets see that as something they can be drawn to, especially cats, or (they) can knock into it inadvertently.”

Approximately 10 vehicles, including engines and ambulances, and 30 firefighters from the city and North and South Tongass Volunteer Fire Departments responded. Buchanan says the home had extensive heat and smoke damage and is uninhabitable for the time being.