Cause of fatal Fox Island fire ruled electrical, accidental

Staff writerJanuary 2, 2014 

The source of the fire that killed a Fox Island doctor and his 8-year-old daughter Dec. 4 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 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 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 floor, 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, as 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 area, and examining the potential causes of fire in that area, eliminating them one by one.

Investigators ruled out external electrical causes, such as the wiring of appliances and 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 wife June, 12-year-old daughter Katie, and son Tobey, Allie’s twin.

The night of the fire, June Babson was able to save Katie, and a neighbor saw the flames and rushed in to carry Tobey to safety.

The intense blaze was reported about 11 p.m., and it was 11 hours later before firefighters could start searching the rubble.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268

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