Three people were hospitalized and several others lost their homes after a woman accidentally started a fire inside a multifamily building while trying to kill bed bugs with alcohol, authorities said.
The fire broke out late Friday in Cincinnati’s Avondale neighborhood, just north of downtown. Randy Freel, district chief of the Cincinnati Fire Department, did not respond to an inquiry from The Washington Post on Sunday, but he told reporters the fire started in the first-floor unit, where the woman lives. The alcohol she was using ignited near an open flame, which was probably a candle or burning incense, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Three people went to a hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation, Freel told reporters. Seven adults and three teenagers were displaced by the fire.
One of those displaced was Kamaron Lyshe, who rushed home after learning that his building was on fire. For the next hour, Lyshe shared what was happening through a Facebook Live video, which showed a massive fire billowing out of the building’s roof. Flames were no longer visible from the street about a half-hour into the video.
Later, a visibly upset Lyshe appears to be sitting in a car and sending messages to friends.
“Pretty much everything we got is all up in flames. It’s crazy,” he said, as he lets out a deep sigh. “Now everything is gone.”
Hours later, Lyshe took pictures and videos of what was left of his building, including the third-floor unit where he lived with his family. The roof of his unit had collapsed. Its hallways and rooms were covered with ashen debris.
“My room is completely destroyed, all my clothes. My closet was right here,” Lyshe can be heard saying as he briefly aims his phone at a pile of rubble.
Down the hallway was his brother’s room, he said, where pieces of burned wood were piled on the bed. His brother’s closet appears to have been spared, with several pieces of clothing still intact.
“I’m kind of dealing with it right now. I’ll start from scratch,” he told the Enquirer. “It’s like a dream . . . everything is burned. I’ll start fresh. It’s all we can do now.”
Authorities did not release the names of the residents, including the woman who started the fire.
Fire officials told reporters that this was the second fire in two weeks caused by someone trying to kill bedbugs.
A 2015 survey by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky found bedbug infestations continue at high rates in the United States, with nearly all of the respondents saying they had been treated for bedbugs in the past year. Infestations happened most often in nursing homes, office buildings, schools and day-care centers, according to the survey.
Do-it-yourself defenses against bedbugs have resulted in accidental fires in the past.
Last month, a 13-year-old Cincinnati boy trying to kill a bedbug doused the insect with alcohol and then lighted a match, causing a fire to start in his apartment building.
In 2012, a Carlisle, Ky., woman set her apartment building on fire after she doused a couch with alcohol and accidentally dropped a lit cigarette on it. About 30 people lost their homes, while four were treated for smoke inhalation.
In Indianapolis that year, flames spread to a home after two men set their infested couches and two chairs on fire in the backyard.
Freel said homeowners and renters wanting to get rid of bedbugs should call pest professionals instead of trying to solve the problem themselves.