Unattended Stove Ruled Cause Of Colcord House Fire

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Susan Durnin's house burned down three weeks ago. She didn't lose any of her belongings though, just her future.

"It was our retirement, it was our kids' future and it's gone," said Durnin, owner of the house in the 700 block of N. Colcord Road. The structure now sits charred, boarded and cordoned off with yellow fire line tape after a Dec. 4 fire destroyed the house.

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The pan that fire investigators determined started the blaze on Colcord Road still sits on the burner where the fire is believed to have originated.

Investigators determined that a pan sitting on the front right burner on high set the house ablaze.

"It appears to be caused by food cooking on the stove," Payson Fire Marshal Mike Winters said. "We did find one burner on the stove turned on. Usually in a case like this with this much damage, it would more likely be caused by grease or oil."

The National Fire Protection Association reports that unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires in the United States. Three out of 10 home fires are caused by cooking.

Winters said that there were no signs of malfeasance and the blaze was ruled an accident.

At the time of the fire, Alvin and Marcella Proctor, their four children and two other family members rented the three-bedroom cabin-style house from Durnin. According to Alvin Proctor, the family, on the afternoon of Dec. 4 when a passerby called 911, was at a football banquet for one of the children.

The Proctors, who've rented the house on Colcord Road for the past four years, acknowledged the cause of the fire, but were hesitant to point fingers.

"We're not going to pinpoint. We didn't intend to do it," Marcella Proctor said. "We can't really say who it was. There were a lot of us here at the time."

Durnin, who's owned the house since 1994, finds cold comfort in the investigation's conclusions.

"The fire wasn't intentionally set. It was an accidental thing," Durnin said. "But it was still pretty negligent."

Durnin said she'll have to spend her savings, including this year's Christmas money, on starting over.

"I've got to rebuild my house and because of my insurance limits on my policy, I'm going to be $40,000 short," Durnin said. "My kids aren't going to get a Christmas this year. I'm really struggling. It wasn't just one family that got hurt in the whole thing."

Durnin said she learned one valuable lesson from this experience. In a community like Payson, where property values continue to increase, she said policy holders need to be involved in their renewals and make sure their limits are commensurate with property values.

"I thought my limits were OK -- around a $75,000," she said. "Boy, people really need to check their insurance policies."

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