Officials: Oven being used to heat mobile home likely cause of devastating fire

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A Polk County home was destroyed by a fast-moving fire Wednesday. 

The family of six made it out alive but lost everything they own.

“I was pretty much distraught,” Jennifer DeJesus said.

The Lakeland mother was home with her toddler and her father when she started smelling something burning in the kitchen.

“We didn’t have a coil on the back right burner, and he saw flames coming out,” she said.

The fire quickly spread from the oven to the cabinets, engulfing the entire home.

“It got too smoky in there too quick, so there was no time to grab anything besides people,” said DeJesus.

Lakeland Fire Rescue officials think grease build-up in the oven could have started the fire.

DeJesus says she was using the appliance to heat the mobile home.

“I’ve got three out of four of my children that are under the weather, my 2-year-old is one of them, and it’s just not warm enough in there, so I had the oven going as heat,” she said.

It's something fire officials say you should never do.

“You want to use the appliance for what it’s intended,” said Fire Inspector Investigator John McGrath.  “Stoves obviously are not meant for internal heating of a structure, they can be very dangerous.”

The department wants residents to stay warm safely, saying space heaters need to be turned off before bed, and always plugged directly into wall outlets.

“With portable space heaters, kerosene heaters and the like, you always want to make sure that they're kept far away from combustibles,” McGrath said. “That you use them in areas that you’re attending so that you’re in supervision.”

The DeJesus’s charred and burned belongings are a sobering reminder. A few pets didn’t make it out, but thankfully, the entire family did.

“We’ve been through quite a bit, we’ve gotten through it and we’ll get through it again,” DeJesus said.  “Everybody’s safe you know, yeah pictures were lost but I mean it’s better then lives.”

The Red Cross is assisting the family.