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Fire investigators: Scottsdale fatal house fire caused by unattended cooking

The residential house fire that killed Scott Michael Stephens (51) on Dec. 23 has been determined as unintentional by Scottsdale Fire Department fire investigators.

“This was an accidental fire, which was caused by unattended cooking that started on the stove,” reports Scottsdale Fire Deputy Chief Jim Ford. 

Stephens was known to work and conduct activities at odd hours.  According to Ford, the actual fire incident had an extensive head start before discovery by neighbors in the very early morning hours.  The victim was located, removed from the structure and advanced life support measures started, but due to the extent of his exposure to the fire, were not successful.  

Also, due to the extensive damage, there is no indication either way that could determine if the smoke alarm was working.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that cooking fires are the No. 1 cause of home fires and home injuries. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. It is important to be alert to prevent cooking fires.

Scottsdale Fire and the NFPA offer these tips to reduce the risk of cooking fires.

  • Be on alert! Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling, boiling or broiling food.
  • If simmering, baking or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen while food is cooking, and use a timer as a reminder.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
  • If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.

If a cooking fire occurs:

  • Get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • Call 911 after you leave.
  • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

As always, reminds Ford, ensure smoke alarms are less than 10 years old and are in good, working condition.



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