Lufkin man suffers serious burns after going to bed with lit cigar

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A Lufkin man who went to bed with a lit cigar suffered serious burns after his makeshift home burned Monday night.

Fire Marshal Steve McCool said the man, identified as Gary Howard, 57, was living in a 10-foot by 14-foot metal shed-like structure behind his cousin, Juanita Griffin's house on the 1600 block of Sunrise Avenue.

McCool said firefighters responded to a call at 11:53 p.m. and arrived to find a fully involved structure fire and the Howard was found lying outside the home and suffered serious burns to 47 percent of his body.

He was taken by helicopter to University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Griffin says Howard is in stable condition and is receiving treatment for his burns.

McCool said there was no electricity in the structure and no smoke alarm.

"We believe what happened was he had gone in because he had been drinking and what we understand is when he went into the shed, he went to sleep and he had a cigar and he had also been drinking at the time and we believe that was the cause of the fire and the significant portion of his injuries," said McCool.

According to first responders, neighbors were using Griffin's water hose to try and tame the flames until the fire department arrived.

"We can't stress enough, not to go to bed smoking. It's just a bad combination. Also, very dangerous to smoke while you've been drinking, especially if you're by yourself. It is not wise," said McCool.

McCool says many times people sit on their bed and smoke with an ashtray next to them.

"If they go to sleep, they drop the cigarette or cigar in this case, into the bed or the bedding or even beside the bed and catch the combustibles on fire and sometimes it'll smolder for some time and the smoke itself will overcome them before they even get burned," said McCool.

McCool says he cannot stress enough the importance of having smoke alarms in all structures where people are living.

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