MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Military firefighters are stressing fire safety following a recent house fire believed to be started by a preschooler playing with a lighter.

The March 21 blaze in the north area military housing was the first significant fire on base in “probably over a year,” according to Senior Master Sgt. J.D. Felty, the base’s deputy fire chief.

Quick thinking by the housing occupants and a fast response by firefighters contained fire damage and prevented injuries, Felty said.

The fire started in a downstairs bedroom next to a cabinet containing candle holders, according to fire investigators.

A 3-year-old was in the bedroom watching television while his parents were in the next room moments before the fire started, officials said.

A smoke detector went off and a 911 call was placed from the home at 7:50 p.m., Felty said.

Fifteen U.S. military and Japanese firefighters were on the scene less than four minutes later, Felty said.

“The training took over,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Wobse, the lead firefighter on the incident.

By the eight-minute mark, the fire was out, Felty said.

Estimated smoke and fire damage to military and personal property was $15,000. But it could have been worse, Felty said. The family identified the fire quickly, called 911 and closed the bedroom door, slowing the fire’s spread.

Military officials did not detail how the base was assisting the family, but one source of available help for anyone in crisis is the Airman and Family Readiness Center, they said.

The center’s primary goal is to ensure basic needs are met: shelter, clothing, food, and physical and emotional well-being, according to Marjorie Pichon, Airman and Family Readiness flight chief.

Military firefighters, meanwhile, are underscoring several fire safety pointers:

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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