SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah couple died after faulty Christmas tree lights sparked a fire at their home of 49 years, authorities said.
The fire started Thursday night in a front room of the house in Woods Cross, about 10 miles north of Salt Lake City, according to South Davis Metro Fire spokesman Jeff Bassett.
Investigators believe the husband and wife used a fire extinguisher to try to put out the flames but they were overcome by smoke, Bassett said.
Bassett said the couple, 74-year-old Melba Mecham and 77-year-old Gary Mecham were unconscious when firefighters pulled them from the home. Rescue workers tried to save the Mechams but the couple died at a hospital.
Bassett said neighbors had called 911 and tried to rescue the couple but the front door was too hot to open, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Neighbors say the Mechams had lived at the home for 49 years.
Bassett said the couple had mentioned to others they had been having trouble with the lights, which came prewrapped to their artificial tree.
Smoke and chemicals from the burning artificial tree likely overwhelmed the couple, while Christmas presents and logs for their fireplace stacked near the tree added fuel to the fire, investigators said.
"We're talking a hot, thick black smoke that was to the floor," Bassett said, according to the Deseret News. "Extremely difficult, zero visibility."
Neighbor Karen Gay Davis remembered Melba Mecham as someone who gave creative Christmas gifts to neighbors.
Her husband was a former upholsterer who was quiet and witty, neighbor Irene Bonner told the Salt Lake Tribune.