Kid with cigarette lighter burns 2 southwest Bakersfield homes

{A href=""}BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Two houses suffered estimated damages totaling $35,000 Wednesday in a blaze that the Bakersfield Fire Department says was started by a "juvenile handling an improperly stored cigarette lighter."

The fire started in the side yard of a house on Durango Way, which is in the area between Ashe and Gosford.

Where the fire started, and how it spread are examples of dangers that are actually more serious right now. And dangers that can be prevented.

Battalion Chief Anthony Galagaza told Eyewitness News one hazard was the material in the yard near the side of the house.

"Obviously we have some debris that's on the ground," Galagaza explained. That's a danger that home-owners can do something about.

'The hazards that can be around the home are any combustibles that are stored near the house," the chief said. "Move those away, especially during this time of the year. Not to mention it's hot, but also because we have the Fourth of July and the need to be careful due to bottle rocket fireworks nearby."

Taking off from the side yard, the fire extended into the garage and dining area of the first house and destroyed a fence separating the neighbor's yard.

Next door, Richard Haskett heard the fire start. "I was in my computer room on the side here, and I thought I heard wind," he told Eyewitness News. "I opened up the blinds, and the next thing I saw -- I saw the fence was on fire."

Haskett and his wife quickly got out of their house. Neighbors urged them not to even try getting their cars out of the garage.

"It was probably about 25 or 30 feet high, the flames," Haskett said. He looked up at a very big tree between the two homes, where the branches were black and still smoking from the blaze. Obviously the flames reached that high.

Haskett said he's been worried about the danger from that tree for several years.

Nearby, other trees had caught fire -- another example of a fire danger.

"Any time you have branches that are hanging near a roof -- especially wood shake shingle, which this is -- it becomes a hazard," Chief Galagaza said.

With the fire out, crews were up on the roof of the first house, clearing off branches and checking the charred shingles.

"We want to clear any brush and tree limbs," Galagaza advised.

Fire crews reported the first house ended up with about $20,000 in damage, and the neighbor's home to the east suffered some damage, an estimated $15,000 worth of property loss.

No one was injured in the fire, which the fire department considers accidental in origin.

Both homes were left without power after the fire, and that was a problem with the hot temperatures.

But, neighbor Richard Haskett said they were still lucky. "I'm glad nobody was hurt," he said. "Which is a good thing."