Cause of Fox Island fire ruled electrical

Investigation: Blaze that killed a doctor and his daughter last month an accident

The News TribuneJanuary 8, 2014 

Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One crews work at the scene of a fatal house fire on Fox Island last month. Tom Babson and his 8-year-old daughter, Allie, died in the blaze.

LEE GILES III/GATEWAY FILE PHOTO

The source of the fire that killed a Fox Island doctor and his 8-year-old daughter last month was electrical, Pierce County Fire Marshal Warner Webb said Thursday.

“Was it an overload? Was it a short circuit? Was it a malfunction of something?” Webb said. “We’ve come to the end of our investigation as far as the county is concerned. We’re at accidental, electrical.”

Investigators earlier had said the fire that killed Tom and Allie Babson in their home Dec. 4 in the 400 block of Sixth Avenue Northwest was an accident. In the past week or so, officials eliminated all causes but electrical, Webb said.

Webb’s experts, as well as insurance and Pierce County Sheriff’s Department investigators have been part of determining the cause of the fire. They have few details about how the blaze started, except that it appears to have begun in the wiring of the house, inside the walls in the attic and between the first and second floors, Webb said.

The county investigation is finished, but insurance crews will still work to get more specifics, he said.

“Something that is very hard to pinpoint,” Webb said. “And we may not ever know.”

Fire investigations can be lengthy because officials gather evidence and try to reconstruct what happened, Webb said. They do that by finding the part of the home with the most damage, in this case the kitchen and dining areas, and by examining the potential causes of fire in those areas. Then they eliminate them one by one.

Investigators ruled out external electrical causes, such as the wiring of appliances or other cords from outlets to devices, meaning the blaze somehow started in the internal electrical system of home, Webb said.

“This one has taken a little bit longer, because it’s a little harder to track behind the walls,” Webb said. “We’re dealing with almost a 7,000-square-foot house. There’s just more area, more potentials.”

Babson, a 62-year-old emergency room doctor and reserve sheriff’s deputy, is survived by his wife, June, his 12-year-old daughter, Katie, and his 8-year-old son, Tobey, Allie’s twin.

On the night of the fire, June Babson saved Katie, and a neighbor saw the flames and rushed in to carry Tobey to safety.

The intense blaze was reported about 11 p.m. Firefighters weren’t able to start searching the rubble until 11 hours later.

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