The two people killed in a mobile home fire in Payson Ranchos last Thursday have been identified as John Dixon, 78, and his wife Nancy, 65.
"The probable cause was smoking-related," Payson Fire Marshal Jack Babb said. "The fire started in the front room, either on or near the couch, where the female victim was sitting. The male victim was found in the doorway of his bedroom. Apparently they had separate bedrooms."
Babb said that while he can only speculate on the chain of events that led to the blaze, the likeliest scenario is that the woman fell asleep on the couch with a burning cigarette in her hand.
"We know that she was on medication," he said. "Although we don't know what kind of medication it was, it could have made her drowsy enough to fall asleep."
Yet another possibility, he said, is that the woman was incapacitated by smoke inhalation.
"I believe the Payson Police will be requesting an autopsy of one or both of the victims," Babb said.
Deborah Matters, one of the Dixon's four daughters, said she thinks the fire was indeed caused by a cigarette.
"My mother had terminal cancer and wasn't expected to live (much) longer," said the Tucson resident, a nurse practitioner. "Both my mother and father were on oxygen tanks, and my mother smoked. Oxygen is a fire accelerant. It doesn't explode, as so many people believe. But it rapidly accelerates fire. Our hope now is that this tragedy can be used to educate people."
When firefighters arrived at the scene shortly after receiving an 11:45 p.m. emergency call Thursday, they found the Dixon's double-wide mobile home engulfed in flames. It took 20 fire fighters an equal number of minutes to bring the blaze under control.
Before firefighters arrived, Babb said, the Dixon's neighbors tried "to determine if anyone was in the home and to do whatever they could do beyond calling 9-1-1. But by then, there was really nothing they could do."