Cigarette May Have Sparked Fatal Fairfax Fire

A woman is being hailed as a hero for alerting 20 of her neighbors to the blaze

A man was killed early Tuesday after a fire broke out in his apartment in Fairfax, Virginia, and a lit cigarette may be to blame, officials said. 

City of Fairfax firefighters responded to the 10100 block of Mosby Woods Drive about 2:45 a.m. and found smoke on the second floor of the 10-unit building. 

William Patton, 74, was found in the apartment. 

"They pulled him out. He was unconscious. They did CPR, tried to revive him, but his injuries were not sustainable with life," Assistant Fire Chief Andrew Vita said.

Patton was pronounced dead. 

His upstairs neighbor is being hailed as a hero for alerting her neighbors to the fire. The woman heard a smoke alarm going off in Patton's apartment and banged on his door.

He did not respond, but she was able to get the rest of her neighbors -- 18 adults and 2 children -- to go outside, Vita said. 

"We're definitely sorry and mourn with the family, but there is a bright light at the end of this," Vita said. "He did have a working smoke detector, which alerted someone on the third floor, and they were able to get the rest of the occupants out. We did lose a life, but we also saved many."

Investigators determined that a cigarette in Patton's apartment may have sparked the blaze, Vita said. He was a heavy smoker, according to neighbors. 

The Red Cross is helping residents, who are expected to be able to return to their apartments soon, the assistant fire chief said.

Firefighters were reminding people in the area of the importance of having working smoke detectors.

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