A house fire that killed a wheelchair-bound Norco woman probably was caused by a dropped cigarette, fire officials said Monday.
Arvella Howe, 77, apparently lit a cigarette when she finished breakfast in her Corona Avenue home late Sunday morning, said Capt. Patrick Murphy of the Norco Fire Department.
When Howe dropped the cigarette, her clothes began to smolder, then ignited, Murphy said. Although a neighbor managed to extinguish the fire with a garden hose before it could spread through the house, Howe was found dead at the scene.
An autopsy performed Monday showed that Howe's trachea was badly scorched, said Doug McCoy, deputy Riverside County coroner. "Evidently she inhaled the flames and the smoke that were there," he said.