Altus family escapes devastating fire

Lawton_An Altus family is lucky to be alive after a fire ripped through their home early Tuesday morning.  The smell of smoke woke them and they escaped just in time to watch their house go up in flames.

The Altus Fire Department says firefighters arrived at the scene a little before 4am and the fire was under control within an hour, but it was too late to salvage the home.  It's still being investigated but there was a portable space heater in the same room that the fire started and the fire inspector has not ruled that out as the cause of the fire.

Friends and family are picking up the pieces after the blaze at 701 West Commerce.  Captain Leander Thacker from the Altus Fire Department says it took firefighters approximately 45 minutes to extinguish the fire.  The good news is everyone made it out.

"When I got there, there were a bunch of family members there, so I'm saying approximately four people were in the house," says Thacker.  And, although the structure is still standing, Captain Thacker says it was almost a total loss.  "There was probably 30-35,000 dollars worth of damage to the house. We valued the house at approximately 45,000 dollars."

Investigators say it started in the southwest corner of the home - a back bedroom.  "They did have a little portable electric heater in that room where it was, it is a matter of controversy right now, we're trying to figure out exactly where it is," Thacker says.

7News reported Monday on just how dangerous space heaters can be if not used correctly.  "If you do have to use one of those, please don't hook up them up to an extension cord and please keep them away from any combustible substances," says Thacker.

Captain Thacker advises those who use this type of heating appliance that clothes, chairs, furniture or anything might ignite if near a space heater.  So, if you must use one, firefighters say keep it at least three feet away from any combustible material.  "Probably the best thing to do would be not to use one at all, but please, please be very careful with them."

It is unclear at this time whether the portable heater was the cause of this fire, but it's important to be aware of during cold months.