Fast-moving house fire teaches lesson on dangers of smoke inhalation

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Fire Department says a cigarette is to blame for a fast-moving blaze that ripped through a north Austin home. It happened around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, forcing the family to scramble out of the burning house.

The family believes it was the smoke, not the flames, that put them most at risk.

“I’ve learned quite a few lessons,” said Shannon Johnson, a few hours after the blaze ripped through her home in the 9700 block of Mountain Quail Road.

Johnson said she heard her teen son banging on her bedroom window. Thick, black smoke and confusion came billowing in as she rushed to the bedroom door instead of the window.

“The smoke was just coming and coming because I opened that door,” Johnson said. “And, my little kid training kicked in and I dropped down.”

Minutes later, her husband Matt pulled her through the window. They were safe. But, their home was not. Firefighters estimate damages at about $130,000.

Johnson says the smoke — which could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning — may have caused the most harm. “The biggest mistake I made was opening that stupid door,” Johnson said. Medics examined the family and discovered that Shannon and Matt had eight times the normal amount of carbon monoxide in their bodies. They rushed the Johnsons to a nearby hospital as a precaution.

By 7:15 a.m., the flames were under control. The family suspected several reasons how the blaze began, but firefighters say the cause was due to an improperly discarded cigarette.

“The cat was running around me. They think the cat may have knocked over a receptacle that I threw my cigarette in,” said Johnson. “I’m 99.9 percent sure I put it out.”

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