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Cigarette tossed in dry grass cited as cause of Aurora house fire

A firefighter takes drink water after Aurorfire crews were called house 2023 Chesterfield Lane 3:09 p.m. Thursday August 2 2012.

A firefighter takes a drink of water after Aurora fire crews were called to the house at 2023 Chesterfield Lane at 3:09 p.m. Thursday, August 2, 2012. Aurora Fire Battalion Chief Steve Malatia said the fire appeared to start in the back yard outside the home and spread up the vinyl siding on the rear of the home.. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 4, 2012 6:20AM

AURORA — The drought conditions contributed to the cause of a fire which did an estimated $200,000 damage to a home on Aurora’s southeast side Thursday.

Fire officials said Friday that a discarded cigarette thrown in the dry grass in the home’s back yard sparked a grass fire which spread to bushes and then spread to the rear of the home.

Three people escaped unharmed from the home, which is near Rush-Copley Medical Center.

Aurora Fire Deputy Chief John Lehman said Friday that the “careless discard of smoking materials” outside the home caused the fire. He said in drought conditions residents should be vigilant of anything that may be burning outside, including cigarettes, grills and fire pits.

“(Conditions) are still very dry,” Lehman said.

Aurora fire crews were called to the two-story home at 2023 Chesterfield Lane in the Summerlin subdivision at 3:09 p.m. Thursday.

Aurora Fire Battalion Chief Steve Malatia said the fire started in the back yard and then spread up the vinyl siding on the rear of the home and up through the attic.

“It was a very large fire,” Malatia said. “I’d say the house is a total loss.”

Charlotte Lawrence and two of her three adult children were inside when the fire broke out. No one was injured.

“I was in my bathroom. We heard crackling — next thing I know I heard my son screaming, ‘Mom, where you at?’” Lawrence said, clutching a family portrait as she stood across the street from the home watching the firefighters.

“The smoke alarm was starting to go off. I got the fire extinguisher and tried to put it out but it was too much,” Lawrence said — the fire had already spread to the home’s second story.

Lawrence said Thursday afternoon that her husband was racing home from work.

“He’s distraught...,” Lawrence said. “We just got new siding. We were having a party tomorrow.”

The family has lived in the home since 1999, Lawrence said. She was waiting for her insurance company to call her back.

“It’s unbelievable how fast it burned,” she said.

The entire rear of the home was burned. Front windows were knocked out.

Malatia estimated the fire caused $200,000 in damage. No nearby homes were significantly damaged.

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