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Christmas lights faulted in house fire

Fire damage was minor, but smoke left the house unlivable.

An electrical short in a string of Christmas lights is to blame for a Thursday afternoon fire that caused up to $50,000 damage to a home, fire officials said.

Firefighters were summoned to the home of Robert and Joan Learned, 12951 Estates Ter. S, after Mrs. Learned arrived to find smoke swirling inside the house, said Alison Shanabrook, public information officer for the Seminole Fire Department.

Learned called her husband, who told her not to go inside. She dialed 911. The first fire engine arrived on scene at 2:06 p.m., three minutes after being dispatched, Shanabrook said. About 18 firefighters responded to the blaze. Firefighters controlled the fire in seven minutes. Flames were confined to an ottoman and chair, but smoke billowed through the entire home. The home was uninhabitable after the blaze, and the Learneds were staying with family members Thursday, Shanabrook said.

"They can't even live there now," she said. "It was pretty significant damage. Smoke permeates everything."

The Learneds could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Shanabrook said the blaze was started by an electrical short in Christmas lights that were mounted by a fireplace mantle. A plastic candle on the mantle tipped onto the ottoman at some point, starting it on fire.

Shanabrook said the lights had been left plugged in. She emphasized how important it is for people to unplug their lights when they leave their homes.