Electrical  short blamed for fire at Van Sickle Street house
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Jan. 25, 2006 -- A fire Tuesday evening destroyed a room at Murrell Sapaugh's Van Sickle Street residence and caused heavy smoke damage to the rest of the house.

An electrical short in the bathroom wall was determined to have caused the blaze, according to Sulphur Springs Fire Chief Gerry Cleaver.

Damage to the structure was estimated at about $5,000. Fire officials released the structure back to the family midmorning Wednesday, but noted Murrell Sapaugh will not be able to immediately return to her home.

"We had to pull the electric meter," Cleaver explained. "They will need a permit saying it's suitable before an electrician can reinstall the meter."

The fire was reported to 911 dispatchers at 7 p.m. Tuesday by Murrell Sapaugh's daughter-in-law Betty, who routinely checks in on the older woman to make sure she gets her medications on schedule and routine meals. Betty Sapaugh, who lives just a few doors down with Murrell's son, noticed smoke in the residence upon entering last night. When the source of that smoke was not immediately determined, Betty called 911. Following the dispatcher's warnings, they got everyone out of the house and waited a safe distance away.

When firefighters arrived, a great deal of smoke could be seen coming from the house. They entered the structure and began searching for the source. In the bathroom, they found a small fire which was extending toward the attic. Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the bathroom area and extinguish it within a short period of time.

An investigation determined an electrical wire leading from the wall to the light fixture in the bathroom vanity had become frayed due to age, weather and its close proximity to a metal air vent pipe and 2x4s in the wall. The frayed wire then burned, with embers falling down the wall and setting fire to the vanity, according to Cleaver.

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