Smoking in Bed Blamed in Fatal Costa Mesa Fire

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Falling asleep while smoking in bed may have cost a woman her life, fire officials said Wednesday.

Firefighters responding to a blaze early Wednesday morning found Joan Macek, 38, dead next to her bed in her apartment in the 1300 block of Bristol Street, and Division Chief Jim Richey said the blaze appeared to be "caused by carelessly discarded smoking material."

The fire was largely confined to the bedroom and probably smoldered for quite some time before it was noticed, which is "typical of mattress fires," he said.

The woman's body was "burned beyond recognition," Richey said. Bruce Lyle, deputy county coroner, said Macek was identified by dental records.

The fire was detected about 2:30 a.m. by three Irvine police officers taking a break at the Denny's Restaurant across the street from the apartment complex. They smelled smoke, called 911 and helped evacuate residents.

The dead woman was a secretary, according to voter registration records. A neighbor said Macek had lived in the apartment for quite a while but "no one ever saw her." The manager at the 104-unit Rancho Palisades apartment complex declined to release any information about her, citing confidentiality rules.

Damage to the one-bedroom apartment and its contents was estimated at $30,000, Richey said.

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