Fatal St. Pete House Fire Cause Identified


A fire in St. Petersburg that killed a five-year-old and destroyed his family’s home on Tuesday started because of a lighter, the boy’s father told the Tampa Bay Times.

Hassan Jerome Vann’s sister saw him playing with the lighter in his bedroom and told her father after the blaze erupted. The family escaped, but Hassan remained trapped inside. Firefighters found him dead of smoke inhalation in his bedroom shortly after they contained the blaze.

“He was fascinated with the lighter,” Hassan’s father, Robert Vann, 71, told the Tampa Bay Times. “He was flicking it and watching the flame.”

Keep Your Family Fire Safe

The Vann family’s tragedy is heartbreaking, and highlights the importance of taking the potential for house fires seriously.

Children are one of the most common firestarters, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Humans are drawn to fire, and children with little exposure may let their fascination get out of hand. Letting them play with lighters, matches, and appliances such as ovens can lead to a fire that can quickly grow out of control.

Ensuring your family practices fire safety is only half the battle. You can prepare your home by determining if the property is up to code by contacting your landlord or a local fire marshal. They probably have a better idea about the requirements, and can help you install smoke detectors, provide fire extinguishers, and more. Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion, either.

Practicing responsible cooking, teaching your children the importance of fire safety, and establishing an emergency plan in case of a fire can all help your family survive a blaze.

Many cities or towns protect tenants by making landlords responsible for providing smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and accessible emergency exits. Keeping smoke detectors working might fall to the tenant after installation, though.

Faulty wiring or broken appliances like dryers and ovens also contribute to fires. Your landlord could also be responsible for fixing a gas leak or cleaning a dirty dryer hose, and the ensuing damage if they fail to address the issues. Our burn safety checklist can help you learn what to look for.

An unprepared home can spell disaster for a family, leading to significant property loss or deaths and injuries like burns that you received through no fault of your own. Faulty smoke detectors and poorly designed fire suppression systems can leave you injured, and a knowledgeable attorney may be able to prove negligence on the part of landlords or manufacturers.

As for the Vann case, St. Petersburg police haven’t confirmed the father’s information or released their own statement about the fire’s cause.

“He was just a mischievous kid doing mischievous things,” Kenya Walker, a relative of the family, said about Hassan. “But he had a good heart. We miss him.”

(Editor’s Note: This is a news story from the ‘Morgan Monitor,’ a news wire offering legal perspectives on news in your community.)

(Feature Photo: A screenshot of an ABC Action News - Tampa report.)