Topeka Fire Marshal Mike Martin confirmed that the blaze, which caused $140,000 in damages and the displacement of 17 people, resulted from an "occupant trying to kill a bug with a lighter."
Monique Quarles told the Topeka Capital-Journal that shortly before 3:45 Monday morning, her daughter Ausha Scott and 2-year-old granddaughter were on the third floor of their Fairlawn Green apartment complex.
In a video interview with the Capital-Journal, Quarles said her daughter alerted her to the bug. "I found the bug, picked the bug up and I put it in my hand and lit it on fire," Quarles said.
She then decided to pick up her mattress to see if there were any more bugs. Quarles and her daughter saw a medium sized bug. Again Quarles tried to set it on fire.
But her flip-style lighter "started sparking" and the box spring ended up in flames.
At first, they tried to put out the fire themselves.
But as it spread, "I said, 'Get out, get the baby, call 911.' And that's what we did," Quarles said describing the scene. The mother and daughter said they started knocking on doors to alert their neighbors to get out.
It's unclear why Quarles chose to kill the bug with a lighter instead of, say, a shoe.
Topeka Fire Department Battalion Chief Chris Herrera said two fire crews responded to the scene with "30-something" firefighters arriving in total.
Herrera said one resident was transported to the hospital for minor smoke inhalation. Later, a firefighter went to a local hospital after experiencing heat exhaustion.
He also said two or three cats were rescued and some had to receive oxygen.
Fire officials said 13 adults and four children have been displaced because of the fire. The Red Cross was on the scene to help residents.
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