Tragedy in Totz, Kentucky

July 11th, 2021

“11:14 hrs Post 10 Harlan received a call of a residential fire with people still inside at 11301 Hwy 522”

That’s how it began.

Kentucky State Police (“KSP”) reports read as follows;

“Trooper Brigmon arrived on scene.  He advised Post 10 the house was fully engulfed and two subjects were outside with severe burns.”

At about this time another officer reported to dispatch that there was an urgent “entrapment” issue.  Two children were still inside the home.

The parents were outside; their children trapped inside.

“Allyson Howard […] was behind a neighbor’s residence.  I immediately walked up to Allyson and bent down to speak to her.  Allyson was lying supine in a grassy area behind the house.  She was screaming in pain and her body was unclothed with burns covering her whole body.  She appeared to have a laceration on her lower leg area.  Her face was badly burned and her teeth and gum area was a darkish black in colour.  I spoke briefly with Allyson and asked her what happened.  She was screaming and responded that she did not know, she stated that she was getting in the shower.  She kept screaming for her babies.”

The house in Totz Kentucky was the home of Chad and Allyson Howard and their three-year old twins, Olivia and Alex.

Shortly after Trooper Brigmon arrived on scene, a “massive explosion caused part of the roof to separate from the structure.” 

Clearly, there was something very odd about this house fire.

From another officer;

“I was able to observe the location of Allyson from the position I was at and observed numerous KSP units as well as fire units placing Allyson on a blanket and carrying her to a pickup truck to be transported in the back of a bystander’s pickup truck to an awaiting [medical] helicopter.”

Continuing, from the KSP report;

“I located Chad [Howard] sitting on the hillside covered completely with a white coloured sheet.  […] I bent down and begin to talk to Chad.  He was alert and I requested if I could raise the sheet and look at him.  He said yes.  I gently pulled the sheet up to view his body and observed Chad unclothed with burns covering his whole body.  His hands were burned very badly and appeared to have fluid running from them.  [When asked what happened, he said] He was in his bedroom with the door closed, getting ready for work. […] He knew the twins were deceased and just kept speaking of his children.”

“On scene I observed several fire apparatus staged and fire fighters actively fighting the structure fire.  The residence was […] over 80% burned. […] No electric utilities were connected to the structure.”

Hours later, when the fire was extinguished, the Harlan County Coroner and a KSP officer located the body of the first child.  The body of the second child was found by another officer shortly thereafter.

I have read the autopsy reports.  There’s no need to report the contents.  It wasn’t light reading.

A few days after the fire, Ms Allison Howard passed away from her injuries.

Three fatalities then, including two children, from one fire.

Totz Fire

Beyond the shattering personal tragedy for the families involved, there was so much that was odd about the fire.  It just didn’t add up.  How could a simple house fire in a 3-bedroom building spread so rapidly that the whole structure was engulfed before either adult could get out, leaving zero time to rescue their children?  And there was an explosion?  What’s normally found in a home that makes a big enough bang to rip a roof off?

See?  Odd.

And why is this odd house fire relevant on RestoreCSA?

Well, we heard about it through a whistleblower.

As you might expect, we started researching this tragedy right away, last winter.  We secured the investigative reports, spoke with local reporters, and soon received more detailed information from a source close to the victim’s family.

Then this letter arrived at the KSP investigator’s office…

“Please be advised that our firm […] is presently investigating a potential products liability action on behalf of The Howard family as a result of a fire in their home, resulting in serious and fatal injuries.”

A lawsuit was launched by Chad Howard.  Apparently, he thought the fire seemed odd too.

In his lawyer’s letter to the KSP they asserted their rights over evidence in the case, reminding the KSP office of their duty to preserve the evidence in their files.  That’s normal.  What’s abnormal is the letter making specific reference to high-value evidence, namely anything related to “propane tanks and space heaters.”

Uh-oh.  This is why the whistleblower reached out to us. 

Remember the More Hot, Hot Heaters article from last year?  In that case in Ohio, a Mr. Frederick Hampton bought a propane heater and installed it as designed.  According to Court filings “as [he] walked down the hallway at his home, while near the propane gas heater, without warning Frederick Hampton’s shirt burst into flames.”  Big flames, apparently.  He “suffered serious burns on his back, chest, neck, arms and face.”  Indeed, said the filing, “Plaintiff Frederick Hamton’s injuries are disfiguring.”

Now, ponder how walking past a propane heater could cause one’s shirt to catch fire?  Well, “the heaters shoot flames into the air around them.”  We spoke with the lawyer on the Hampton case.  He advised that the flames in question shot sixteen inches beyond the heater casing. 

And how could such an unsafe heater be sold as safe?  Well, the Canadian Standards Association (“CSA”) certified it as safe. 

And how could an unsafe heater pass CSA’s rigorous safety tests?  Well, the CSA rigged the tests.

From the Ruling of the Court;

“On May 12 and May 19, 2005, at CSA’s facility, Enerco and/or CSA deliberately altered a vent-free heater to conceal an unsafe defect for testing purposes, and CSA falsely certified the heaters as safe; Enerco and CSA intended their false representations about the safety of Enerco’s heaters to mislead merchants and Plaintiffs, as consumers, on product packaging, in product literature, and during advertising; Plaintiffs, as consumers, justifiably relied upon Enerco’s and CSA’s representations about the safety of the heaters; and Plaintiffs were injured economically by purchasing the unreasonably dangerous heaters. […] Further, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have sufficiently pled the elements of conspiracy to defraud. Plaintiffs have alleged that Enerco and CSA deliberately agreed to alter the heaters, falsify testing results, falsely certify the heaters, and incorporate this false certification into Enerco’s product packaging and other promotional materials with the intent to mislead merchants and Plaintiffs, as consumers.”

Ah.  Right.

This background of falsified testing, fabricated results, and conspiracy to defraud the public with dangerous heaters spontaneously shooting streams of flame onto people seemed, you know, similar to what happened in Kentucky.

Indeed it was similar.  As Chad Howard’s lawsuit started gaining steam, the filings within started looking really, really, like the Hampton case.

According to Court filings, shortly before the house fire Chad Howard had purchased two “Dyna-Glo RA18LPDG Cabinet Heaters.”  He installed them in his living room.  Then, on the morning of the fire, “the subject heaters ignited a fire that engulfed the home and caused explosions.”

Explosions, remember?  I spoke to a source in the community and that explosion was quite something to witness.  The “roof blew off the house.”  A propane tank was expelled from the building and “was [found] embedded in a neighbor’s house about a hundred yards away.”

A propane tank, mind you, such as from a CSA certified heater.

Howard’s lawyer is adamant that the heaters “were in an unreasonably dangerous condition” when brand new.  He argues (among other things) that;

- Their design and manufacture created unreasonable risk of causing a fire while used in a reasonably foreseeable manner
- They did not have adequate safeguards to control the fuel pressure from the propane source
- They did not have adequate shut-down systems

Apparently, at the time of the house fire the heater in Howard’s living room was shooting flames “5’ – 8’ out the top of it.”  The living room was about 7’ high.  The flames then, were up to the ceiling and spreading laterally from the point of contact.  Yeah, well, that’ll start a house fire pretty quickly.  There was no shutting off the gas.  The heater case allegedly allowed pooling of gas within the plastic frame of the unit. 

There were two heaters in the Howard home, that might account for the flying propane tank embedding in the neighbor’s house.  Depending on how the gas was pooling, where it was venting, and where the two heaters were in relation to each other, it might also explain the massive, sudden build-up of pressure to take the roof off.

In all this context, how could these heaters be certified as safe?  Well…

The CSA certified them as safe.

Howard’s lawyer knows all about CSA, he already has the CSA fraud files from the Hampton case, and the CSA testing fraud case in California last year, and he knows very well that in the Howard case, just as in the Hampton case, the manufacturers of the heaters and retailers of them will all point to CSA’s safety certification as their defence against conviction. 

In the Hampton case, the fraud originated inside CSA’s offices.  In the Howard case, the fraud will almost certainly be assumed there also, especially in light of the now longstanding CSA record of testing and certification fraud.

The CSA, in other words, is about to be hit with a charge of, if we’re to be blunt, multiple negligent homicide. 

That’s right folks, the Kentucky case is filed under the Wrongful Death Act.

What’s especially damning, at least in my opinion, is that CSA makes no changes, admits no wrongdoing, pays no damages, no civil servant spends any time behind bars for any of the medley of massive breaches of law in which they’ve been caught.  I mean, filing after filing, Ruling after Ruling, and it doesn’t matter. 

The CSA goes on even when people can’t go on anymore because of them. 

It’s that record of callous, cold-hearted greed for profit -laws and ethics be damned- that’ll play poorly for them in Court.  It’s a jury trial, after all.  And jurors will know the context, the shameful record and the facts. 

We’ll see.  Maybe it’s all a horrifying coincidence.  After all, the Civil Service is innocent until proven guilty.  That much we know. 

And that three people burned to death.  And that for CSA, “the bottom line is revenue generation.”