A Salt Lake City couple died Thursday when they were overcome by smoke from a fire that began with faulty Christmas tree lights. Before the couple, who had lived at their home in Woods Cross, about 10 miles north of Salt Lake City, for 49 years, had told friends they were having trouble with the lights, which came wrapped on their artificial tree.
Fire officials believe Melba Mecham, 74 and Gary Mecham, 77, used a fire extinguisher to try and put out the fire but were overcome by smoke inhalation. They were unconscious when firefighters arrived on scene and died after being transported to the hospital.
Most fire fatalities are the result of smoke inhalation, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The heat of toxic fire smoke and the chemicals it contains can irritate the mouth, nose and airways, damage tissue or cause asphyxiation.
Unlike the smoke from a well-oxygenated wood fire, toxic fire smoke results from a fire fueled by a variety of materials such as plastics, man-made fabrics and manufactured building materials. In addition to small particles that can be inhaled, toxic fire smoke often contains dangerous chemicals.