BRUNSWICK COUNTY -- A 70-year-old man is dead after a house fire in Shallotte. The fire started in the bedroom of John Lynch Jr.'s house off Central Avenue sometime around eight o'clock Sunday morning. A neighbor saw the smoke and called 911. By the time fire crews arrived on scene, Lynch had suffered severe smoke inhalation and died on the way to the hospital. Investigators say the cause of the fire was an improperly discarded cigarette. Lynch's death marks the 14th fatality in Brunswick County due to a fire in the past two and a half months. Investigators say cigarettes or a lack of working smoke detectors have been to blame for each of the six fatal fires in the county in the past few months. Brunswick County Fire Marshal Scott Garner said, "In all of the fires, except one, the Ocean Isle fire, nobody could report that the smoke detectors were operating." Checking a detector's functionality is a simple process of pressing a test button. If there is any doubt, replace it. Fire investigators say one common mistake homeowners make is disconnecting a smoke detector that is going off when someone is cooking and forgetting to put the battery back in. "Some of the newer detectors you buy have a silencer where you can press a button and silence it for a time period like if you were cooking, then after ten minutes or so it would go back to operating normally," Garner said. In many other cases, about 50 percent of all fatal fires, cigarettes are to blame. Investigators say even if you use an ashtray, you are still in danger. "A longer cigarette may cause you to balance that cigarette on the ashtray, at which time once it burns to a certain point it's going to tip," Garner said. Brunswick County Emergency Services Director Randy Thompson said, "If you're going to smoke and you're going to smoke inside, make sure you use a deeper ashtray." According to the North Carolina General Assembly, between 700 and 900 people die each year from cigarette fires. Brunswick County emergency personnel are working hard to stop these fires from happening.
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