Cause of Menifee House Fire Listed as Unattended Candle

This photo, which is placed at the top of Jennafer Griswold's Facebook page, shows friends, family and neighbors gathering in front of the burned-out Griswold home.
Riverside County Fire officials have officially listed an "unattended candle left burning" as the cause of a Nov. 22 fire that severely damaged a Menifee house.

This finding was reported hours after one of the occupants of the home in the 29900 block of Pacific Channel Way told Menifee 24/7 she had major concerns that an electrical problem -- possibly related to the connection of a new video game system that day in the family's living room -- could've been the cause.

Speaking to Menifee 24/7 Thursday while waiting for results of the investigation, Jennafer Griswold said her concerns stemmed from the fact an Xbox One gaming system purchased that morning and plugged in for the first time that night might have been the cause. There have been several media reports in recent years of overheating Xbox and Playstation consoles some consider fire hazards.

"Nobody minds blaming the candle after a fire," said Griswold, who admits a candle was burning in the home as she slept on a couch in the living room before being awakened by the fire. "I burn candles in my house every single day. The only difference between that Friday and every other day in my house for the last 10 years was the Xbox One."

Griswold could not be reached for comment after the release of the fire department's findings, but she did post reaction on her Facebook page.

"My kids are very happy that the fire report is an unattended candle and not the Xbox," Griswold wrote. "I'm not as confident, but I'm probably just feeling guilt. (Husband) Jeff is having a big 'told you so.' "

Griswold said Thursday she was hesitant to buy her two teenage children another Xbox One because of her concerns. Others have expressed similar concern on Menifee 24/7 Facebook threads. And Cheryl Vrba -- whose Menifee house was severely damaged by fire in April -- said her family had a similar gaming system plugged in and running when they came home from dinner to find their house ablaze.

A report on Little Rock, Ark., TV station KTHV descibes a 2008 house fire in Little Rock that investigators say was caused by an Xbox console. The report also describes how in 2005, the family of an Illinois infant who was killed in a fire sued Microsoft, as did the family of a teen from Texas who was burned. Also in 2005, Microsoft issued a recall of more than 14 million XBox power cords, citing fire concerns.

Officials at Microsoft, makers of the Xbox, could not be reached for comment.

While insurance investigators are analyzing the damage at the Griswold home, the family has rented a house right across the street. They were approached by the occupant, who was forced to move because the husband was being deployed by the military.

Griswold said the family wishes to thank all those in the community who dropped off donations. Her neighbor's driveway and garage were filled with generations donations, she said.

"I don't know how to thank everyone," Griswold said. "I took a panoramic photo of all the gift cards we received. It's Christmas every day around here now."

In addition to the many gift cards donated by residents, the Griswolds received enough donated food items to fill their pantry. They also received tubs full of clothes, board games, housewares, linens, toiletries, even teen novels. Many people left notes with the donations.

"People really made an effort to reach out to the children," Griswold said. "Some left notes, but the majority were anonymous donations. It's overwhelming and we're truly grateful."


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